It is time for Shane Flanagan and Trent Barrett to grow up

Mr X Roar Guru

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    “Unbelievable.” “Disgraceful.”

    These were the words used by Trent Barrett and Shane Flanagan to condemn the performance of the referees in what was otherwise a pulsating weekend of footy.

    Funnily enough, it is ironic that such words could be more correctly used to describe both coaches’ attitude towards defeat. You see, the problem in our game does not lie within the inability of the match officials to interpret the rules correctly.

    Rather, the cancerous attitude towards referees that both Flanagan and Barrett have not only condoned, but actively added to is the real issue. Todd Greenberg summed it up perfectly on Monday morning with two simple words – “Grow up.”

    Unfortunately, the childish image that both coaches reflected in their handling of defeat is more influential than it may appear.

    The onus for protecting the integrity and image of our game does not rest solely with the referees, nor does the responsibility fall towards the fans.

    Rather, it is the coaches in particular who hold the power. They are the figurehead of all sporting codes – the men and women who are meant to represent what each club stands for.

    What some people may not understand is the impact that these significant figures within our game have on the way that we, the fans, view certain issues.

    When Shane Flanagan walked into Sunday night’s Press Conference and not once admitted his own side’s failings, he sparked a storm within the Cronulla supporter base. If his behaviour is acceptable, then why would it not be for us fans?

    At least Trent Barrett still spoke of Penrith’s efforts and later congratulated the side on their victory before they left.

    As for Flanagan – well he thought he was doing what was right for the game by reading an exhaustive list of errors made by the officials.

    Well, Shane – there was another list that you left out – a list including the 17 errors, 34 missed tackles and 11 conceded penalties which were the fault of no one but your own side, who finished the regular season with 266 errors and 175 conceded penalties.

    Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    That’s right – instead of focussing on the real issue facing his club, that derailed their chances at back-to-back premierships, Flanagan decided it was appropriate to take the easier option. Unfortunately, so did many of his fans and with this faded the now distant memory of what was a thrilling weekend of competition.

    So, I think it is time that we all take Todd Greenberg’s advice and “grow up.” Yet, this all starts with the coaches. They are the ones that we fans passionately stand behind each and every year.

    Their opinions are the ones that truly matter to us. What happened to the Shane Flanagan of 2013? The one who correctly admitted that “these things happen in our game” after Beau Ryan’s infamous seven-tackle try which gifted the Sharks a controversial 20-18 win over the very opponents that they were just defeated by on Sunday afternoon.

    Memory is a fickle thing. Todd Greenberg’s statement yesterday was an important step towards reconciling the current refereeing spectacle that threatens to overshadow the development of players like Latrell Mitchell, whose Greg Inglis-type fend in the 75th minute was all the talk before Barrett and Flanagan’s tirades.

    Rugby league is an eighty minute game and human error is inevitable, from both players and referees. Match officials are human – they make mistakes.

    A classy side, however, is the one that wins in spite of this – something that Trent Barrett and Shane Flanagan should both keep in mind.

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