A record-high 33 penalties were blown in the Sharks versus Storm clash on Friday night. That is one penalty approximately every two-and-a-half minutes.
It was truly an absolutely awful advertisement for the game. Paul Vautin expressed his disappointment in the post-match review for Channel Nine, where he spoke of how he was angered by the fact that “a referee could completely ruin a game by blowing 33 penalties.”
Yes Fatty, Matt Cecchin did blow 33 penalties, and almost every single one of them was warranted. It is time that the players and coaching staff take accountability.
They are the ones who can actually prevent our game from descending into a tedious eight minutes of whistle-blowing. All they need to do is make the change. If they do not do so, then they simply cannot complain as the onus is on them to fix this issue.
It is true that the referees were increasingly lenient in policing aspects of the rulebook such as the ten-metre law. It has been quite clear that this year, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg is adamant on seeing these rules strictly enforced.
In that sense I cannot blame the players for struggling to adapt to the changes. However, until the players themselves get it right, the criticism needs to be directed at them rather than the match officials.
They were the ones twisting the rules in the first place and now that they are being reinforced, rather than accepting the shift they are testing the referee’s patience. The dramatic influx of penalties are a short-term pain for a long-term gain.
The Cronulla versus Melbourne game was one of the worst 80 minutes of football I have seen in years – there is no doubt about that. However, if that is what we need to do to ensure that the rules of our game are finally followed I have no problems with it.
For too long players have been abusing the limited policing of the ten-metre rule. The referees have made their intentions clear and it is solely the responsibility of the players to get back a few extra metres than they had done previously.
The sin-bin has been used a record number of times this season and the argument can be made that the five-minute break needs to be introduced to further deter players from continuing their ways.
This week our country has been rocked by the ball-tampering scandal in which Cameron Bancroft used tape to rough up the ball and generate reverse spin. Captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner – along with Bancroft – have been set for lengthy spells out of the game for their actions.
The whole of Australia has condemned what they’ve done. They cheated. They broke the rules of their game. Why does the same not apply here?
Players who do not stay onside are breaking the laws of rugby league. The same goes for the penalising of high tackles and the several other fundamental rules that are a part of our sport.
If the officials were to back down now and admit that what they were doing was tarnishing the entertainment of the game what sort of message would this send?
Essentially, they would be indirectly allowing the players to continue to manipulate the rules. This week we as a nation have stood up for fairness and sportsmanship. Why not now?