Roosters’ title hopes swinging on the blast of a referee’s whistle
There are fears the NRL's 'war chest' to keep players like Sonny Bill Williams in the game will disrupt the salary cap's level playing field. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay)
The Roosters are crowing at the prospect of winning their first minor premiership since 2004 but it could all end in tears unless coach Trent Robinson can instil some discipline in his players.
And he will need to do it with a sense of urgency.
Far too many opportunities are being handed out to opponents thanks to a steady flow of penalties against the men in red, white and blue.
Many of these penalties are frivolous – laying on the tackled player, hand on the ball, offside – but others are for over-exuberance in defence, and others for plain old grubby or illegal play.
All teams sin in the eyes of the whistle-blowers but none more than the competition favourites.
So far in the 22 premiership games, Robinson’s men have been penalised on 179 occasions, averaging a tick over eight free rides to the opposition per game.
Robinson and the players have been quizzed by media people who are told, time and again, the Roosters’ camp is ‘concerned’ about the trend and that ‘something must be sorted out’ with the match officials.
But nothing ever happens.
Last Monday’s game against the struggling Tigers produced an 11-7 penalty count against the Roosters.
Fair enough, the competition leaders were always going to run up a huge score with their superior attack but if they think they can give the likes of Melbourne, Souths or Manly that many leg-ups in the finals, they should think again.
These teams have a habit of scoring points in the sets that follow penalties.
They will eagerly accept any gratuities from the Roosters who could ruin their great season because they are seriously lacking in the discipline department.
Stats show there are a number of serial offenders in the Rooster line-up.
Halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, hooker Jake Friend and winger Shaun Kenny Dowall have given away penalties repeatedly and nothing seems to be happening, as the team keeps scoring tries and keeps on winning.
It will be no use blaming the refs if Easts go crashing out of the competition with straight sets finals losses.
To me, there seems to be a blatant problem here with indiscipline.
If not, then it must be a veiled form of cheating the system by mauling the opposition in a bid to slow down their play and stifle their momentum.