The Roar
The Roar


Don't worry about rugby league's big issues - just read the tea leaves

Henry Perenara (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
4th June, 2018
1016 Reads

When you’re around something for a long time, you get a feel for the direction things are moving in. There are lots of curses with age; this is one of the blessings.

I’ve been around rugby league a long time. This week I’ve been posting videos of the 1982 Kangaroos on the Mascord Brownz YouTube channel.

Not games but news bulletins; at 13 I sat there with my finger on the pause button taping every mention of the team on the evening news from Rex Mossop, Father John Cootes, Gary Wikinson and Ron Casey.

So I can kind of assuage your anxiousness about certain current events. Relax, some things are kind of predestined.

Club teams have to be named early for integrity reasons but Origin teams don’t, with two players named as replacements for Billy Slater and coach Kevin Walters allegedly “telling porkies” about whether he was out.

Billy Slater runs the ball for the Maroons in State of Origin

Billy Slater of the Maroons tries to make a break. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Meanwhile, some fans don’t want the rules enforced as stringently as they are in club games on Wednesday night when New South Wales meets Queensland at the MCG (I love saying that each year, in the hope that I have just one reader who does not know what teams play in State of Origin).

Listen kiddies, I’m old enough to remember a bloke calling the Brisbane Sun newsdesk in 1980 to ask where the visiting American team from the State Of Oregon was playing Queensland and I can tell you Origin gets more like club football with every passing year.

The same rules regarding team selections will be in force within a couple of years, if not by the end of this series – and if they aren’t blowing the pea out of the whistle on Wednesday it will either because the teams are behaving or because it won’t happen ’til game two.


Your tweeting and arguing on talkback radio is for nought. That’s just how it is.

Let’s go to another one that gets the cheap seats arguing with the press gallery: off-field behaviour.

This week a video emerged of Wigan’s Joel and Sam Tomkins abusing bar staff, refusing to leave the establishment and Joel forcing his way behind the bar, touching a young girl working there. There was also a bit of ugly abuse.

There are suggestions the club knew about the incident weeks ago, taking action only when the footage became public. Joel was stood down for four weeks and fined Stg10,000. Sam has been fined Stg5000.

Across the Pennines, we don’t know what punishment was meted out to Albert Kelly for his tirade in a Hull McDonalds because the club said nothing.

The fact that Wigan ended up on the back of two national tabloids and the local paper didn’t even cover the Kelly incident suggests, purely from an expediency point of view, Hull might have got it right.

[latest_videos_strip category=”league” name=”League”]

Clubs might be more inclined to follow their example.


Again, don’t fret, youngsters. Old Steve has seen that the arc is long when it come to player behaviour but it bends towards kicking them up the backside and making them better citizens. Wigan’s approach will prevail – and eventually clubs will come clean on such incidents even without media attention.

Oh, it’s a long, long arc – yes.

How about the seemingly endless criticism of match officials?

That Sydney Roosters-Wests Tigers game; so many incidents and so much athleticism and all people wanted to talk about was a couple of refereeing incidents.

In England the discord seems to spread onto the field, with players copping so many red and yellow cards that it’s leaving a bit of a blurry brown stain on proceedings, if you get the double meaning.

We had one of those TV unfortunate clips at the weekend of a referee deliberating with the man upstairs over a try and a couple of pillocks standing directly behind him hurling abuse at the poor bloke.

What has 38 years of going to rugby league games told me about this ‘hot’ issue: respect for referees? Oh that one keeps the panel shows and columnists busy…

Er … there is no arc folks. It’s a straight line. It … does … not … friggin … change. As a working class game, hatred of authority in all its guises is like baked-on grit from the factory floor. We hate referees the way we hated the denizens of Twickenham back in 1895.


In fact, we respect pretty much no institutions in rugby league culture; nothing is above being torn up and burned to a cinder from one week to the next. Again, it goes back to our rebellious origins and our demographics.

People will say “why should we not question things”. You might respond, “well if you are always questioning things that have been around for a 100 years, you never get anything new done”.

And so it is. Rugby league has trouble getting anything new done. The game itself may be a celebration of so much – but we don’t actually pause to celebrate it.

When it comes to the boring, monotonous, destructive and embarrassing denigration of match officials, there is sadly no end in sight.