Shocked rugby league supporters are calling for change after a player coughed blood and struggled to breathe while play was allowed to continue in the first Women’s State of Origin game on Thursday.
This year marks the first time for NRLW players to play two Origin games, the first of which was won by Queensland 18-10 at CommBank Stadium.
With New South Wales leading 6–4 in the shadows at half-time, Queensland winger Julia Robinson hit the ball up and appeared to punch Blues skipper Isabelle Kelly in the throat with an upraised arm.
Play was allowed to resume as trainers rushed to Kelly’s aid, the central left hand grabbed her throat and gasped. She later coughed up blood in the barns and had to be hospitalized.
Queensland players including Julia Robinson watch Kelly as she struggles to breathe during the women’s State of Origin match at CommBank Stadium in Parramatta
While Kelly was down from the incident, play was allowed to continue and Queensland scored a crucial try en route to victory in the first Origin match
Fans were furious that the incident was not penalized, but even worse that referee Adam Gee allowed play to continue, leading to a crucial try in Queensland.
“The fact that Adam Gee let the game go on after a try, when every man and his dog could see that Kelly was really struggling, was a straight joke,” said one fan.
“The game should have been stopped, even if the ref missed, there are still 2 touchline officials and the bunker who should have told the ref. Disgusting lack of player safety,” added another.
“She was taken to hospital. Coughing blood. The worst part is, it was so dramatic, so obvious, obvious breathing problem that it’s impossible not one officer saw it. Outrageous behavior,” another posted.
NSW coach Kylie Hilder was also furious at the incident, questioning why play was allowed to continue and Maroon’s second rower Tazmin Gray awarded a try.
“She’s in the hospital, she’s not great. There are concerns for her,’ said Hilder.
“I’m very worried and I still don’t understand why there wasn’t even a punishment when she got punched in the throat.
“It’s a big concern to me when we have a player on the ground who is obviously not comfortable and not in a great way, and she was struggling to breathe.”
Kelly is assisted from the field by Blues officials. She would later cough up blood in the barns and have to be hospitalized
New South Wales coach Kylie Hilder was unhappy that referee Adam Gee allowed play to continue when a player was clearly in distress
Hilder said halftime was disturbing with players coming in while Kelly was still receiving treatment and clearly in trouble.
‘A lot happened in the sheds,’ Hilder said.
An ambulance came for Izzy and it wasn’t great.
“She was very uncomfortable and there was quite a bit of noise coming up as well, so we had to round up the girls and just let them know we had a half to get out and move on.”
Robinson insisted the incident was an accident.
“We are not here to hurt people. I love Izzy [Kelly]so obviously I felt terrible when she went down… I hope she’s okay now,” she said after the game.
Attacking players in rugby league using an arm bar has been a controversial topic in recent years and players want it rubbed out of both men’s and women’s matches.
Roosters forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has often been criticized for his running style which can include a raised forearm and elbow
Waerea-Hargreaves has often had trouble with referees in his career, but attacking players’ raised arm remains in play
Andrew Fifita to be treated on the sidelines in 2021 after suffering a laryngeal fracture during the Sharks game against the Newcastle Knights
Roosters forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been repeatedly accused of deliberately leading with his forearm while running the ball throughout his career.
That dates back to 2014 when then Newcastle skipper Kurt Gidley called on the NRL to crack down on that running style, saying ‘being punched in the throat is as bad as anything’.
“This is one of the things that should be removed from the game – leading with the elbow Watch Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – does it almost every hit. It causes so many injuries,” one fan posted after the Kelly incident.
Former Cronulla Sharks enforcer Andrew Fifita was placed in an induced coma in the intensive care unit of a Brisbane hospital after suffering a laryngeal fracture in a tackle in 2021.
“Definitely reminded me of the impact Andrew Fifita’s life-threatening broken larynx caused two to three seasons ago. Hopefully not so serious for Kelly. The game absolutely should have been stopped,” another fan posted.