Twice at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night we saw players stay down to ‘milk’ penalties. It’s an issue that has reared its head in pretty much every NRL game in recent memory and one I have no problem with.
Beau Champion stayed down after a stray arm from Michael Jennings, and Mitchell Pearce did as well after copping a shoulder as Sam Burgess completed a tackle. I had no problem with either call, but the second was probably a little harsher than the first.
Every time this happens we get the same reactions from the crowd. Slightly embarrassed delight for the fans of the team receiving the penalty; groans, boos and jibes at the player’s manliness from the scorned supporters. Nothing too shocking about that.
But I don’t really view it as players being soft, nor do I think that they’re ‘cheats’, ‘pansies’ or whatever other less- friendly names are thrown at them.
In fact, I don’t have a problem with it all. If anything, I encourage the player to stay down.
Why? Because it’s not like Luis Suarez jumping over a leg and hitting the ground without any contact (although, on that note, I’m also in favour of football players going down if they’re fouled).
It’s obvious, isn’t it? These players are not manipulating anything.
Michael Jennings broke the rules. It wasn’t spotted by the referees like it should have been. Champion’s actions enabled the referee to make amends for his mistake.
And yes, perhaps it gets a little over-zealous at times (such as the Burgess incident) but ultimately, in all the cases that are penalised, the defender doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He hit a player high, and was penalised.
My only problem with the current system is that a player has to be put on report once the play is reviewed. I don’t think either penalty from last night warrants Jennings or Burgess to miss a week of the season.
That’s what needs to change. Referees need to be able to change their mind without having to punish the player twice. We don’t need players rubbed out of the game for ‘love taps’, as Jonathan Thurston so lovingly referred to them in perhaps the most famous example of a player milking a penalty:
On a related note, I would like to praise the performances of the referees on Thursday. They got every call right and were solid throughout.
One particular thing I’m a fan of is the new video refereeing system – Daniel Anderson is a breath of fresh air as referees boss after years and years of Bill Harrigan/Robert Finch ineptitude.
The fact that Hollywood Bill was on the radio today criticising the referees’ performances, with all the class of a scorned lover, tells us all we need to know. We might actually be in for a relatively incident-free season from the men in pink.
And because they were so good on Thursday night, it’s pretty clear I’m not blaming the referees for not picking up every high shot.
There are plenty of occasions where the crowd doesn’t spot anything awry before it’s replayed on the screen. But whether or not it’s hard to see, it’s still a penalty. And I’m happy for it to keep being called that way.
Does that make me a cheat or a pansy? Probably. But then again, any person who’s played weekend park football with me would say the same thing.
Follow Matt on Twitter @theMattBungard