Frustrated by a narrative that referees ruined Magic Round, the NRL's head of football Graham Annesley has declared the players are to blame after a record 24 charges by the match review committee.
As of Monday afternoon, 20 weeks worth of suspensions had been handed out by the MRC, with five players yet to enter a plea - two of whom are facing a total of six games banned.
According to Annesley, they're charges that would have been handed out in any week, regardless of the NRL's new stance on tougher on-field punishment for contact with the head or neck.
Annesley said the record number of charges, which almost doubled last week's 22-year record of 14, is because dangerous contact is happening more often.
"People have said that Magic Round was wrecked because of what the referees did," he said.
"Magic Round was impacted because of what the players did.
"Referees responded to that.
"If these incidents don't happen, no one is complaining about the referees taking action because there's no action to take. It's disappointing."
However, he could not explain why incidents of foul play and dangerous contact happened more in round 10 than at any other weekend in NRL history.
Annesley said there is not yet enough data to judge whether rule changes brought in at the start of the season have fatigued players to the point where tackle technique is affected.
"I'm hoping it's just one of those unusual spikes that we have in any season ... but this is a big number, obviously," he said.
"I'm hoping it's a spike that can't be explained, and then next week it comes back down again.
"It's unfortunate that it happened on Magic Round, it's unfortunate that it happened on the weekend where the Commission said we're going to take a much tougher view of this stuff on the field, but off the field nothing changed.
"Off the field they were reviewed as they would be any other week."
As for the edict to referees to be tougher on contact with the head and neck, Annesley said the NRL simply had to catch up to every other contact sport in the world that is taking concussion seriously.
The RLPA is set to meet with the NRL about the crackdown this week.
General president Daly Cherry-Evans said he supports the move to rid the game of high shots and a statement was made in the flurry of send-offs and sin-bins over the weekend.
"It's great we're cracking down on foul play, I think that'll be good for the game, the longevity of it and enticing kids to play the game so I'm on board with what they're trying to do there," he said.
"The game has got the best interests at heart, I think the players understand that, but we've got to get the balancing act there."
Australian Associated Press