22 Apr 2016

Thurston stirs further NRL controversy

9:31 pm on 22 April 2016

The National Rugby League's crackdown on touching referees has descended into further controversy after footage of North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston placing his hand on Ashley Klein emerged.

The Cowboys Johnathan Thurston in NRL action.

The Cowboys Johnathan Thurston in NRL action. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Just as Penrith and Kiwis prop Sam McKendry was found guilty of contrary conduct at the judiciary, Panthers fans have taken to social media to protest the NRL's lack of consistency over the issue.

McKendry failed in his attempt to fight a grade-one charge after making contact with referee Jared Maxwell in Monday's win over Sydney Roosters and will miss this weekend's clash with Cronulla.

Mckendry argued he made unintentional contact with Maxwell and Panthers coach Anthony Griffin predicted there would be a lot more players charged in the coming weeks now that McKendry's verdict had set a precedent.

Panthers fans are outraged that Thurston, who was pictured extending his hand and placing it on Klein's chest in the 60th minute of North Queensland's round six win over the Panthers a week and a half ago, was not charged.

Panthers and Kiwis prop Sam McKendry.

Panthers and Kiwis prop Sam McKendry. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The NRL has been accused of double standards after incidents involving Mitchell Moses, Trent Merrin, Corey Norman and Jamie Soward also went unnoticed by the officials while others were charged.

McKendry was the fourth player charged with touching a referee this year along with Canterbury's David Klemmer, Parramatta and fellow Kiwi international Kieran Foran and Brisbane's James Roberts.

Even among those charged there is a lack of consistency. McKendry's incident looked more innocuous than Klemmer's yet the Bulldogs prop successfully fought his citation at the judiciary and was surprised McKendry couldn't do likewise.

Roberts and Foran both accepted early guilty pleas.

Griffin said it was a harsh penalty for McKendry to miss Sunday's clash with the in-form Sharks and said a fines system should be introduced for minor infringements.

"That'd be more sensible," Griffin said of a fines system.