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Rugby League on Sky Sports
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Leeds Rhinos’ Mitch Garbutt was dismissed for this hefty punch on North Queensland Cowboys’ James Tamou

Leeds prop Mitch Garbutt made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he was sent off during the World Club Challenge clash against North Queensland.

It was not a good night for the Rhinos, who lost 38-4 against the NRL champions after going into the break at 4-4 apiece.

The night got worse for them when Garbutt was sent off in the 71st minute for punching James Tamou after he reacted to Tamou slapping his team-mate Keith Galloway.

Garbutt, who joined Leeds from Brisbane Broncos, has been given a two-match ban and has issued an apology saying it was a ‘silly thing to do.’

While tempers may boil over on the pitch, the players are totally different off the pitch and Garbutt and Tamou met in the tunnel after the game, shook hands and exchanged jerseys.

The punch and the subsequent dismissal caused massive debate on whether a punch should be an immediate red card, no matter the circumstances.

Our rugby league panel – some who have thrown and taken a few punches themselves – give their views.

Terry O’Connor: NO

I have no problem with fights during games (not on a regular occurrence though). The sin-bin was, and still is, sufficient punishment. If you are playing a tough contact sport, then sometimes it will boil over. The spectacle isn’t ruined on the pitch and let’s not forget that neutrals admire the players who at the end of the game shake hands and walk off together before sharing a pint in the bar. As I stated in commentary, I do not condone violent, unprovoked attacks but you are responsible for your actions and if someone retaliates, then – as they say in Widnes – ‘you’re fir game’.

Brian Carney: NO

I would not make EVERY punch an automatic red. Judge every punch on the circumstances in which it was thrown. There will be instances in which self-defence is a legitimate justification for throwing a punch back. I would not like to see a red card for the ‘victim’ in a case like that. In summary, I do not believe EVERY punch should be an automatic red.

Phil Clarke: YES

Yes, without a doubt. We now live in an age where one punch can kill out on the street at a weekend and we have to show that it is unacceptable.

Jon Wells: NO

Punching on the field = 10 minutes to cool off. Punches come from frustration as often as with malice and the sin-bin is the correct starting point. We are a sport that is the envy of many, but we need to ensure future generations are not put off by being soft on acts of aggression that are nothing to do with the laws of the game.

Barrie McDermott: NO

No, it shouldn’t be a straight red for every punch or fight – 10 minutes is sufficient. It is not the street and it’s not a true point of reference to say ‘if it happened in the street’ as on the field, you are in an arena of combat. If it is two players fighting, it should be dealt with differently than for instance somebody hitting an opponent from behind. Aggression should be controlled but inevitably sometimes players over-step the mark. My personal opinion is that common sense on punching is paramount – our sport is not black and white and it is fuelled by emotion. Given time to calm down, the majority of players will get back on task. The minute you take away emotion, we lose the best aspects of our game.