Wests Tigers should have intervened before Joey Leilua unleashed a coat-hanger on Panthers player Dylan Edwards, legendary coach Phil Gould has suggested.
Leilua was incensed when his brother, Tigers teammate Luciano Leilua, was taken from the field following a high tackle on Saturday night.
The tackle occurred midway through the second half and Leilua simmered until the final minutes of play, before decking Edwards with a swinging arm off the ball. He is facing a four to six-week suspension for what was branded a “dog shot”.
Leilua’s career has been marked by incidents in which he has been unable to control his emotions. Gould told Wide World of Sports that Leilua’s anger was obvious on Saturday and needed to be curbed before his ugly retaliation.
“He’s always in some sort of mood, it’s just degrees of mood that he’s in,” Gould said on The Final Whistle.
“Obviously he was set off by the injury to his brother and the frustration of the game and the situation that they were in, he came up with an unsavoury incident at the back end of the game, which was always going to happen at some stage.
“You could see he was in an explosive mindset and neither teammates or coaches had done anything to curb that over-exuberance that we knew was coming.
“He was sort of allowed to run his own race from there and it eventually cost him 10 minutes in the sin-bin and it’s going to cost him a little more at the judiciary this week.”
Leilua copped enormous backlash after the incident, including a call for his contract to be ripped up. Former Jillaroos star Allana Ferguson said that Wests Tigers should have known that they were buying a loose cannon when they signed Leilua from Canberra for this season.
“It’s not the first time that we’ve seen him act out like that, so I think they did know,” Ferguson said on The Final Whistle.
“But I think the standard needs to be set with Joey Leilua. That was an intentional reaction, so that is something that you can stop. It didn’t need to happen, there was intent behind it and it was just a poor decision by him, so I think they need to treat it seriously.
“As Gus said … you could see it brewing, you could see that that was the way he was carrying himself on the field, that he did look like he could be reckless at some point. That was the way it played out.
“If it isn’t his teammates or his coach that are able to rein that in and really control and channel that energy and aggression into the game in a positive way, then it needs to be this way. He needs to be penalised for it seriously so that it stops, because it’s not fair to the opposition.
“It was completely uncalled for and we don’t want to see it happen again.”
Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire said post-match that he would speak to Leilua about the incident, lamenting the big centre’s ill-discipline.
Edwards branded the ugly hit a “brain snap” but said that he would leave it on the field.
Leilua will serve a four-week ban if he takes an early guilty plea over the incident, but will face six games out if he contests the charge and loses.