Panther fury at send-off call
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
HERE is the biggest question that is going to be asked in Group 2 football this year.
How does a player get sent from the field for a misdemeanour that officials say wasn't intentional?
The result of yesterday's crucial clash between Sawtell and Coffs Harbour was decided only 15 minutes into the first half when Sawtell captain-coach Craig Wallace was sent from the field for a head-high tackle on Comet winger Nowan Williams just as he was about to plant the ball for Coffs' opening try of the match.
The correct call of a penalty try was made by referee Nathan Grace as Williams lay motionless for more than two minutes.
Most of the supporters in red and gold were calling for Wallace to have a 10-minute spell in the bin but the stands were nearly torn down when Wallace was told that he could have an early shower.
At the end of the match when all the paperwork was being filled out, Wallace was reported for a non-intentional Grade 1 head-high tackle.
With an early guilty plea, the captain-coach will be allowed to play against Macksville next week but how does a charge of such minimal drama warrant Sawtell playing with only 12 men for over an hour?
Considering the number of times that Wallace himself has been on the receiving end of head-high tackles since taking the reigns of Sawtell with not even a pealty blown, it appears a massive imbalance was created.
The way the Panthers played yesterday, many of their supporters will tell you that if they had 13 men on the field they would have walked away with the two points and it's hard to argue.
When the penalty try was awarded, scores were level at 6-all. For the next 15 minutes, the only time Sawtell touched the ball was when they kicked off as the Comets ran in another four tries to race out to a 20-point lead.
With only 12 minutes remaining, Sawtell hit the lead when Brent Cullen's try was converted and what earlier looked like an unlikely victory was quickly turning into a real possibility.
A tiring Panther defence missed crucial late tackles and the Comets ran in two late tries to win the contest.