“Toddy Greenberg, he was at the game tonight, and I just really hope he saw what I saw. It’s a lot healthier for our club if I don’t go any further into this press conference. It’s not out of disrespect to the media.
“It’s got nothing to do with you. It’s just a lot healthier if I don’t continue.”
And with that Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart got up and left the press conference. The problem is the rules say that he had to continue.
The NRL Operations Manual is quite clear about it:
“At the completion of each NRL match, the head coach of each team and a senior player must attend and genuinely participate in the post-match media conference.”
Now Todd Greenberg, the NRL’s Head of Football – a role that takes in rugby league operations – has issued Stuart with a breach notice and a $20,000 fine for walking out of the press conference.
Stuart has been fined nine times previously too. He’s got form. So it is all fair enough right?
Firstly, Ricky had a right to be annoyed. Over the last three games crucial decisions have gone against his side.
The Jarrod Croker no try against the Dragons in Round 10, the Sam Kasiano strip of Paul Vaughn in Round 11, and the blatant forward pass for the Broncos final try last weekend were all garbage calls. Further, in the Broncos game the Raiders received no penalty when Jarrad Kennedy was clearly stripped in a tackle short of the line.
Each one of these – and especially the Kasiano strip – very arguably cost the Raiders the matches. That’s more than frustrating, especially when you are a coach like Stuart who probably has a massive siege mentality that has been borne of the incredible hatred that exists for him among league fans.
However, the main reason the fine is unfair is that on the same evening the Broncos flagrantly broke a rule from the exact same operations manual the press conference rule is in, but they have received no sanction whatsoever.
Todd Greenberg is selectively enforcing rules and it isn’t acceptable, especially when he’s handing out fines.
The NRL Operations manual states the following:
• In all cases when trainers enter the field of play to either attend to an injured player, carry water, or deliver individual messages, they must immediately leave the field once their assigned task has been completed and return to the player’s bench.
• At all times trainers must enter and leave the field as quickly as possible (i.e. running) without interfering with play.
• The blue (messages) trainer’s duties are limited to:
– Interchange of players.
– Provision of water.
– Carrying messages to individual team members.
• Must not give general messages to the team or otherwise assist in the task of coaching (save for the carrying of messages to individual team members) while play is progressing.
The Broncos didn’t just break this rule, they destroyed it.
I watched on in awe during the match against the Raiders as Allan Langer continually directed the Broncos attack like he’d never left the role. And it wasn’t just young gun halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford who were benefiting from Alfie’s constant mentoring and direction.
Alf had advice for any player he thought wasn’t quite in the right spot. Without question, he was coaching.
I was first alerted to his frequent presence on the field by a listener who texted in during our ABC Grandstand call of the game to question how Langer was allowed on the field so much.
Intrigued, I took note of his movements from that point until the end of the game. There was a distinct pattern. When the Broncos regained possession the first hit-up was always heading up the middle of the field as much as was possible. The instant the player was tackled Langer would run onto the field with a rag in his left hand and a water bottle in his right. As soon as he was on the field he took up residence behind the players and gave instructions verbally and with gestures.
You could tell when the kick was coming because as soon as the tackle before it was made, Langer immediately ran back to the bench and to Broncos trainer Alex Corvo – whose headpiece we can safely assume had him in contact with the coaches’ box. Corvo would relay instructions to Langer, who would wait until the Broncos had made their first hit-up of the new set, and back on he’d run with his rag and his bottle.
This exact pattern happened from the moment I started monitoring it until the end of the game. Rinse and repeat. And there he was again doing the exact same thing against the Sea Eagles on Friday night.
Langer’s 375 games of experience at club, state and national level is directing Hunt, Milford and the Broncos attack in general during the game, on the field.
Now, it seems like a no brainer that a coach would recruit experienced players as trainers to help guide the team. Someone who has been there and done that. To whom strategy and spotting opportunity came as second nature. It is highly arguable that Craig Fitzgibbon at the Roosters and Danny Buderus at the Knights are doing this role. However, Allan Langer is about as good as you could get.
The question must be asked of any coach who doesn’t have an experienced ex-playmaker as their blue-shirt trainer exactly why they don’t. When games are often decided by centimetres, this on-field tactical role is a must.
There’s only one problem: it’s totally against the rules. The NRL Operations Manual clearly says that you can’t do it.
It is black and white. The trainers cannot – must not – coach the players. And yet Alfie is doing it constantly, right in front of the ground managers.
I enquired with the ground manager after the Raiders match – the man responsible for the enforcement of the NRL Operations Manual on game day – about Langer’s actions, only to find him completely unconcerned about it: “He’s allowed to deliver messages.”
The ground manager is a lovely bloke, but even the most cursory examination of Langer’s role shows Langer is coaching. However, no fine has been issued to the Brisbane Broncos Limited for a breach of the rules, only for Ricky’s.
Let’s pause and think about that: the NRL is fining a club $20,000 for a breach of the rules in regards to post-match media coverage, but not fining a side for breaking a rule that actually has a direct affect on the game.
Are you serious Mr Greenberg?
Do you not see the hypocrisy of this?
Do you not see that you have got the prioritisation of what is and isn’t fined completely wrong?
You cannot call yourself a competent administration when you selectively enforce some rules but not others. It’s a joke.
Raiders CEO Don Furner Jr should point-blank refuse to pay the fine unless the Brisbane Broncos are fined for their breach on the same night.