Few people expected to see the Melbourne Storm in the NRL’s semi-final weekend but, unfortunately for their opposition, here they are.
Some turn a blind eye, some condemn it; others say it’s the nature of competition. Why can’t Australians stop cheating?
And I’m not just talking about Australian cricketers – although they remain the gold standard.
The public backlash and strong response from Cricket Australia suggested a low tolerance for cheating, but only recently Shane Warne – a man not known for being tight-lipped, despite a countenance like a snare drum – said the penalties imposed on the players outweighed the crime.
Besides, Australians would rather back cheating winners than sporting losers, right?
So let’s stop all the faux outrage and claims of being un-a-‘Strayan. Why not just embrace your true colours? And I’m not talking green and gold, but red and yellow. Like the cards being relentlessly dished out in the NRL.
Now there’s an Australian sport that has unashamedly embraced cheating. How many titles have Melbourne won legitimately? Sorry, that’s a trick question, no one really knows.
But without the Storm’s innovation, rugby league wouldn’t have Billy Slater’s patented ‘quick tap and flop’, or tackling techniques like the grapple, the crusher, the chicken wing and, more recently, Cameron Smith’s revolutionary ‘chicken leg’.
That’s the same Cameron Smith who had never been sent from the field or suspended until some fool in NRL HQ decided it would be a good idea to crack down on cynical play.
The result? An endless stream of penalties, cards and predictable outrage.
There were five cards in the Manly versus Melbourne match, including one red for Curtis Scott punching Dylan Walker. Although judging from Walker’s Instagram posts, even he thinks he deserved it.
Manly’s Walker and Api Koroisau were binned for eight and a half(ish) minutes. I’m no lawyer, but ‘approximately’ doesn’t seem a particularly useful measurement of time. While this wasn’t strictly cheating, it denotes a certain apathy towards enforcing rules.
To Melbourne’s credit, they didn’t complain, but did Craig Bellamy give counterpart Trent Barrett a begrudging post-match wink?
The outrage isn’t being directed at the players who consistently continue to push the laws. Not even when carded and they dawdle from the field via the longest route possible, like an arthritic pensioner on a winter morning stroll.
It’s not directed at the coaches either, who clearly instruct their teams to cynically infringe rather than give up points.
Honestly, the Warriors are conceding more penalties this year too and have been cynical when defending their line, which might explain why they are enjoying their best-ever start to a season and sitting third on the ladder. To compete in Australia they’ve had to embrace cheating.
No, the outrage isn’t directed at players or coaches, it’s targeted at referees and administrators. Of course – those silly sods actually trying to enforce rules in an Australian sporting contest. What next – rules in AFL?
If you want rules, go watch rugby union.
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Rugby union, home of the shrill whistle peep; only occasionally interrupted by a sporting contest. A game where rules are so numerous and complex that referees’ interpretation has become as varied as the resident population of Israel Folau’s version of hell.
It is a game where cheating is heavily penalised and cards dispensed at will – which might explain why the Australian sides are rubbish and crowd numbers are thinning.
In a post-match discussion between Rod Kafer, George Gregan and Stephen Hoiles about an undetected elbow from Crusaders prop Joe Moody, Holies lamented that the Australian sides must start cheating better.
To be fair to Hoiles, he wouldn’t be the first to think that after a Crusaders match. They are a team who can boast more success than Melbourne and less popularity than Manly.
To anyone outside of Christchurch, it’s an awful mix that makes them about as appealing as Usman Khawaja’s index finger during the national anthem.
So what I have learnt from my minimal research of Australian sport? Not much, other than I quite like to drink mid-week and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Oh, and that Australian sport seems to be going through an identity crisis.
The cricketers don’t want to cheat, still want to win, and are lamenting the harsh penalties for those who get caught. It’s quite the conundrum.
Australian rugby has lost its way to the point they are publicly debating improving their cheating abilities.
And rugby league continues to play the only way they know: by taking every possible advantage on and off the field by any method. They remain the petulant child who refuses to play with others.
As a Kiwi who loves the traditional rivalry and banter, I say be true to yourself: get ya cheat on ‘Straya!