‘Claytons’ home advantage highlights the NRL’s many issues

Caroline Layt Roar Rookie

By , Caroline Layt is a Roar Rookie

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    The NRL needs to do better when it comes to finals football. Take the Sea Eagles and Sharks last weekend: both finished higher than their respective opponents, the Panthers and the Cowboys, yet had to play with the ‘Claytons’ home advantage of matches at Allianz Stadium.

    The best the NRL could come up with was a stadium that took away any advantage whatsoever and reduced crowds at both fixtures, all because some bright sparks during the 2010 season were upset the crowd reached capacity at Kogarah Oval, and people were turned away at the gate.

    Go figure NRL, you get a full house and yet you want to take the fixture to a central venue the fans won’t travel to and have a reduced crowd from 30,000 paying customers down to 15,000.

    To add to the smaller crowds turning up at Allianz, the atmosphere is well below what a home crowd would bring to Shark Park or Brookvale.

    This issue needs to be sorted out before next season, as the AFL must be laughing at the NRL’s ineptitude.

    Throw in the poor refereeing decisions and you have finals football that left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans.

    Interestingly, the Melbourne Storm overcame a Parramatta Eels outfit who took it to them from the outset of their match, and it wouldn’t surprise to see these two teams line up in the grand final in little over a fortnight’s time.

    The other contenders, the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos, had another closely fought finals match before the Roosters prevailed in front of their home crowd, at Allianz.

    It’s interesting that despite these two matches being closely contested, there was little controversy over the final result and how the matches played out. If the Storm or Roosters played at a neutral venue, would the referees have made more mistakes? Maybe refereeing in front of a home crowd makes the officials more accountable?

    Having ventured out to the ground and witnessed the Sharks play the Cowboys last Sunday, it was hard to rationalise some of the decisions Ashley Klein made. Knock-backs became knock-ons and strips appeared to be non-existent. It was also hard to understand James Maloney being sent to the sin bin when a penalty would have sufficed.

    Maybe Tony Archer and Klein need to go? Possibly it’s time for Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman to be given a shot in the middle, as Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield wrote in his article in The Daily Telegraph last week. They are young and from all accounts have done a great job refereeing Holden Cup matches.

    Touch Judge Belinda Sleeman

    AAP Image/David Rowland

    As for this weekend, the Broncos should be too strong at Suncorp on Friday evening, although the Panthers will put in a resilient effort.

    The Eels play North Queensland at ANZ Stadium on the Saturday evening, which is as close to their home advantage as they can get while Parramatta Stadium is being rebuilt.

    Parra won’t make the same mistake as the Sharks did – they will put a tired Cowboys away early, but the longer the match goes on, the more chance North Queensland has of an upset.

    The crowds will be much larger this weekend, as both matches are not just hometown matches by name. As for the the fans, well they’ll just want no controversy and two blockbuster matches.

    Hopefully, that won’t be too much to ask from Todd Greenberg and Tony Archer.