Todd Greenberg never should have needed to order a crackdown

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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33 Have your say

    When NRL boss Todd Greenberg ordered a crackdown on referees earlier in the season, he opened a tin of worms.

    He requested all referees to make sure the team in possession played the ball with a foot, not simply rolling the ball back under the foot to the dummy half.

    Greenberg never should have been placed in that position.

    His predecessors way back, and the referees of the day, gradually allowed a sloppy play the ball until it became unwritten ‘law’.

    Shrewd coaches jumped on the bandwagon in their endeavours to speed up possession, to further cement the unwritten ‘law’.

    The real law reads – “When the ball touches the ground it must be heeled (ie backwards) by the tackled player. The ball must not be kicked or heeled by the player marking him. The ball is in play when it has been played backwards”.

    So don’t blame the refs for reverting to what the law has always been. Blame the coaches for cementing the wrong way in their best interests.

    Referees in the past are also to blame for the defending players lying all over the player in possession.

    The law says – “The defenders must release the tackled player immediately”.

    Immediately is not three, four or five seconds late as has been the case for over 20 years,

    Coaches will never be denied, but they will never die wondering.

    Todd Greenberg

    Todd Greenberg (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    The reasoning behind lying all over the attacking player is to stop him fudging a couple of metres before playing the ball.

    Do that five times and the attacking team is ten meres closer to the tryline than they deserved to be.

    But I’ve left the worst destruction of law until last – the scrum.

    No longer can it possibly be called a scrum. more of a lean-to by six forwards to give seven backs more room to move.

    When I first watched then covered rugby league, Ken Kearney, Ian Walsh, and Noel Kelly were hookers who actually hooked for possession.

    The reason was simple, the halfback fed the ball into the tunnel.

    The tunnel disappeared decades ago as the half fed the ball under the second row’s feet.

    Team of the Century hooker ‘Ned’ Kelly summed it up best when I asked him to compare himself with Cameron Smith.

    “No comparison, I was selected as hooker because I actually hooked, Cameron’s a great footballer, but he’s never hooked in his entire life, in fact he’s never ever even seen the football in a scrum”.

    The law says – “The ball shall be put into the scrum by holding it in a horizontal position with a point in reach hand and rolling it along the ground into the tunnel formed by the opposition front row forwards”.

    The tunnel went out with cravats, and knickerbockers.

    So full marks to Todd Greenberg for trying to erase the major blunders of the past that were ongoing.

    But he’s got his job cut out because coaches, players, and fans are so set in their wrong ways.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn't get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world's great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • June 12th 2018 @ 7:23am
      kk said | June 12th 2018 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      David, Make the roller- ball law and play on.

    • June 12th 2018 @ 7:41am
      Brian Jones said | June 12th 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Let’s be honest here , Greenberg ordered the crackdown because , members of his family and the rugby league community in general had made the assumption that he was in fact , dead.
      The bloke does nothing, and then pops up to make a statement about SSM or something else irrelevant and then disappears for another 6 months ,while the game dies of a thousand cuts.

      • June 12th 2018 @ 2:03pm
        JVGO said | June 12th 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        Yep, Greenburg having no other ideas or talents ordered a crackdown by the refs because he had to been seen to be doing something in order to justify being nepotistically parachuted, despite a total lack of abilities or credentials, into his lucrative position. He has now disappeared again to god knows where while the game flaps on hopelessly in the breeze.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 12th 2018 @ 7:58am
      Don said | June 12th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      I agree.
      However, we are in the minority, with many viewers influenced by the talking heads, Gould, Rothfield, Harrigan, Johns etc

      Then you have a ridiculous scenario of the game implementing a rule change with the penalty against the dummy half for passing the ball into an opposing player who is offside.

      The rule on this was already adequate and has always been in place yet also incorrectly reffed.
      If the ball is passed into an opposing player who was involved in the tackle and has not deliberately involved himself in play, then a scrum ensues.
      The only ruling ishould be whether a player has intentionally got himself in the way.

      But in a knee jerk reaction to the issue the NRL decided to change it to a penalty but need to now determine if the ball was deliberately passed into the opposing player?

      What was wrong with reminding everyone of the original rule and actually enforcing it?

      • Roar Guru

        June 13th 2018 @ 11:51am
        Hoy said | June 13th 2018 @ 11:51am | ! Report


        Next up… any ball that hits the turf seems to be 99% knock on, regardless of where it actually lands… I can’t understand how they call some forward.

        Commentators and journos complaining about the refs blowing penalties don’t seem to realise that it’s not the Refs causing the penalties. It’s the players.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 3:56pm
          Mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          Hoy, surely you aren’t suggesting an uneven penalty count is the result of the players rather than outright corruption of the referees?

    • June 12th 2018 @ 8:27am
      Paul said | June 12th 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      The past 10 or more years have seen coaches and commentators dictate the way the Laws of the game should be applied. I remember listening to Gould and co, whinge about the refs who asked for scrums to be reset because the ball wasn’t going in straight. They complained it was slowing down the game, etc, so now as David points out, we have 12 blokes leaning against each other while the ball feeder throws the ball under the locks feet.

      Coaches have learned to push the boundaries and have continued to seek any way to gain an advantage,very often by either breaking the Law or at least the spirit if the Law. If they get caught out, very often they’re position is backed by the commentators eg teams have been coached to shepherd a player off a team mate who’s taking a high kick. Now it’s being penalised, it’s being criticised by commentators.

      Greenburg needed his refs to take control of the game and they’ve made a start this year. They need to keep going through next year, so coaches and commentators stop trying to push the rules and let players play within them.

    • June 12th 2018 @ 9:17am
      RoryStorm said | June 12th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      David I usually smile when I read team of the week when it references the “hooker” or some article makes a comment about the “rake”. I often wonder why these days the player in that position isn’t merely named as the number 9?

      • Columnist

        June 12th 2018 @ 9:55am
        David Lord said | June 12th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        To support your thinking RoryStorm, rugby made reference changes moons ago, renaming second rowers as locks, the original lock to number 8, and breakaways to flankers up front – and among the backs renaming five-eighth as fly-half.

    • June 12th 2018 @ 9:31am
      Forty Twenty said | June 12th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      I’d love to see the refs penalise players for not releasing the tackled player immediately. These players who not only lie on top of someone but turn around to have a good stare at the ref not blowing his whistle is giving me a twitch and I think a rash is starting to form as well.

      • Columnist

        June 12th 2018 @ 10:05am
        David Lord said | June 12th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        We’re on the same page Forty Twenty with the less academic forwards mouthing what could only be counting up to four lying all over the tackled player, then standing up quickly with arms outstretched at 45 degrees, looking straight at the ref with a “Look at me ref, I did nuttin’ wrong” – fooling only themselves.

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