Penalty Wars 2018: The NRL surrenders… again

AJ Mithen Columnist

By AJ Mithen, AJ Mithen is a Roar Expert

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    And just like that, the war is over.

    ‘Crackdown 2018′ lasted a bit longer than previous rule enforcing sprees, but yesterday NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC Chair Peter Beattie conceded defeat.

    It was a strange time for the NRL to pull the ripcord on its previously rock-solid commitment to rule adherence.

    What the announcement makes clear is that the NRL has been spooked by the constant ‘fans are hating the game’ narrative being pushed around the place, even though the data doesn’t back it up.

    Overall, crowds are up a little and the NRL is beating the AFL handsomely in the TV ratings.

    What makes it even stranger is that as fans, we’d all pretty much become accustomed to how things were. We grizzled about it at times, but we understood the bigger picture.

    And we understood this bigger picture because Greenberg himself went to great lengths to explain the crackdown, so even those who hated the direction couldn’t say they didn’t know about it.

    Todd Greenberg

    The Roar

    The NRL’s spin on things now is that issues around the play the ball have largely been solved, but referees were nitpicking penalties above and beyond their preseason directives to police the defensive line and the play the ball.

    So they’ve told the refs to back off. Again.

    
You can guarantee within weeks that we’re going to be back to the sprawling, spoiling tactics which somehow generate the mythical ‘flow’ everyone talks about, but can’t properly explain.

    “I don’t want referees looking for penalties, what I want is referees to police those areas we have tasked them to do and allow the game to flow,” Greenberg said.

    Once again, it appears the referees get publicly hung for doing their jobs as instructed.

    In the lead-up to last week’s Origin series opener, the appointment of Ashley Klein and Gerard Sutton was almost universally panned. No matter where you looked, here were two undeserving, incompetent pretenders who shouldn’t have been in the same galaxy as a State of Origin game.

    Now, their handling of Origin 1 is apparently the gold standard for how rugby league matches should be curated.

    No consideration is given to the fact Origin brings together 34 of the best players in the league, playing in a three-game series where the impact of a penalty means much, much more than one given away in week 13 of 26.

    No consideration, either, for the fact that this grouping of elite players only made a combined 13 errors.

    Last Friday night against Penrith, Canberra made 16 errors of their own. That game was panned for taking too long because apparently the referees were blowing too many penalties, not because the Raiders were straight out garbage with their ball handling (they completed just 65% of their sets).

    The crackdown split the NRL community down the middle. You were either 100 per cent for it, or 100 per cent against it. There was no middle ground.

    

For each person who complained about the flood of penalties, there was another who fully supported the approach and wanted the game to move away from the greco-roman game style of recent years.

    But there was one area where we all agreed, and that was wanting consistent decision making. If you think this new direction for referees is going to bring more consistency, prepare for disappointment.

    Because, as Greenberg himself says, “Don’t over-referee, don’t look for things. Simply referee the play that’s in front of you.”

    Nearly 18 penalties per game are conceded on average across the league. Now that number could easily be six, or it could easily be 30. That’s the nature of the game.

    So don’t complain when the referee turns a blind eye to a transgression, because they’re just ‘allowing the game to flow’.

    If there’s a major sporting league anywhere in the world that shows less respect for its officials than the NRL, I’m yet to encounter it.

    Bashing refs is great fodder for broadcasters and fans but its long-term impact will be significant, with massive ramifications for the sport of rugby league.

    On the victors’ side of the battlefield stand the Daily Telegraph, Channel Nine and some pockets of Fox League, who have vehemently campaigned against the direction since Week 1. They see this announcement as the NRL once again backing down when things get a bit too hot.

    If the NRL thought they’d get credit from their opponents for this decision they’re sorely mistaken – these outlets have already pivoted to asking what the league is going to do when the spoiling tactics inevitably return.

    I can’t wait for the opinion pieces complaining about referees letting things slide and not penalising teams. But there’s no doubt now everyone is on the same page: the flow must keep flowing – not even the rules of the game will stand in its way!

    On the field, this news is manna from heaven for teams who love to spoil in the ruck like the Storm, Roosters and Sharks.

    Cameron Smith of the Storm is sin binned

    Cameron Smith (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    It’s amazing during this whole debacle that the coaches and players effectively escaped any serious scrutiny for the inflated penalty counts and record sin bins.

    But why would they change? Their lived experience told them that all they needed to do was stick it out, keep infringing, keep complaining, and they’d get their way.

    It’s not the first time the NRL squibbed a contest, and it most definitely won’t be the last. In fact, if this ‘crackdown’ couldn’t work with all the publicity, goodwill and support it was getting from fans, why on Earth would any future administration tempt fate by even thinking about doing something similar?

    AJ Mithen
    AJ Mithen

    AJ watches far too much sport. When he's not watching it, he's reading about it. When he's not reading about it, he's writing about it and when he's not writing about it, he's talking about it on the podcast ‘A Sporting Discussion’. Rugby league has AJ's heart, but he loves to give space to the sports that the mainstream forgets - he’ll never rest until Australian baseball gets the coverage it deserves! He’s always game for a debate in a comments section or on twitter @AJMithen - but you’d best come prepared!

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    The Crowd Says (109)

    • June 13th 2018 @ 4:08am
      KenoathCarnt said | June 13th 2018 @ 4:08am | ! Report

      Referees have been useless. Can they please clamp down on players stripping the ball on a 2 or 3 man tackle. Ball security is not an excuse if it is a strip then it is a penalty.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 13th 2018 @ 5:46am
      up in the north said | June 13th 2018 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      So the NRL & Greenburg have blinked first, guess it was bound to happen. It would have been nice for a change if the games administrators had the guts to stand firm on an issue for once.

      Who actually runs the game.

      • June 13th 2018 @ 9:28am
        Roger said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        “Who actually runs the game.” – Phil Gould.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 11:22am
          Mike Gordon said | June 13th 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

          One year? Just give me one day as boss of ch 9 and I’ll fix the “refereeing problem”! 🧐

    • June 13th 2018 @ 6:01am
      Simon Murray said | June 13th 2018 @ 6:01am | ! Report

      The nrl lacks a really basic degree of rationality and logic. Until the game as a whole realises that its not impossible to rule on a forward pass we have no hope. Until the rule book and what the refs have in their head we have no hope. Until the commentators understand that an even penalty count is independent from the validity of each penalty we have no hope.

      Not all the fans have to be Albert Einstein but it would be helpful to have some smartie pants at the top who can stand by their own arguments. Every week Greenberg should do his best to explain every reffing decision and why its accurate per the rule book. If we all agree the rule book is the standard we won’t have these issues.

      • June 13th 2018 @ 6:43am
        Womblat said | June 13th 2018 @ 6:43am | ! Report

        Forward passes are not really that simple. If you are sprinting full ahead, with someone running just as fast a meter behind you, and you toss it maybe a meter over your head and they catch it, it’s gone backward in relation to you but forward in relation to the ground, right? Is that a forward pass? Many probably say yes, but the refs, the game and the rules for 110 years say no. It’s in relation to the hands that throw it, not the ground or the sky or the magnetic poles of the Earth or whatever. It’s a flowing dynamic game and there isn’t any fixed frame of reference, except maybe the goal posts.

        Generally, if it looks forward, it is. And even though the NRL gets it wrong more than other comps (mostly because the touchies are completely demasculated), most refs can see it. Forward passes will always be controversial.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 13th 2018 @ 7:33am
          up in the north said | June 13th 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

          There’s no ambiguity with a dummy half throwing the ball forward at the ptb.

          • Roar Guru

            June 13th 2018 @ 8:42am
            Edward L'Orange said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

            You’re right about the short pass. This is the real blight when it comes to forward passes. If there is a pass anywhere between 1 and 3 metres from dummy half, it’s forward a huge majority of the time.
            But really I blame the ball runners. Just like wingers tend to be standing too laterally these days, the forwards are too far into their run before the hooker even gets the ball. They have to pass forward to hit the runner. The NRL have evidently concluded this is fine.

            • June 13th 2018 @ 9:53am
              Brian Jones said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

              The combination of three or four forward passes and the markers allowing the play of the ball to creep a metre each time , due to the fear of being penalised for “crowding “ ( when the f#%k was that rule introduced? ) and it’s not hard for a team to pick up ten easy metres in a set.

            • June 13th 2018 @ 10:00am
              Griffo said | June 13th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

              Probably because defensive lines have been consistently offside.
              Full Circle…

        • June 13th 2018 @ 10:09am
          Griffo said | June 13th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

          It seemed like on the weekend there was a gross overreaction to a perceived forward pass by Maloney, in State of Origin, that was let go. In the moment I screamed “Forward” at the tv. Having looked it over on replay a few times I don’t think it was based on where he and the ball are when the pass was caught, but I think the plane of rotation of the ball, as well as the fact that the pass was flighted combined with the camera angle contributed to a perception of it being forward.
          On the weekend there were some many “Forward Passes” called which looked like very tough calls. The number of them on one weekend just seemd like too big a coincidence to me.

          • June 13th 2018 @ 8:06pm
            KiwiBear said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

            Don’t over think it. If it looks forward it probably is forward!

        • Roar Guru

          June 13th 2018 @ 10:55am
          spruce moose said | June 13th 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          Womblat

          Many probably say yes, but the refs, the game and the rules for 110 years say no.

          That’s 100% wrong.

          Forward passes were frequently called forward in the 20th century. This whole ‘out of the hands backwards’ rubbish is a new phenomenon. Forward passes being called forward were never an issue until the past few years. It was never controversial to call them, it was controversial to not call them.

          This idea of no fixed reference points is insanely silly – lines. Loads of them are on the park. They don’t move.

          • June 13th 2018 @ 4:21pm
            Cugel said | June 13th 2018 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

            The “out the hands” thing is a futile attempt to reach people who can’t understand basic physics i.e. the ball has momentum in relation to the ground.

          • Roar Guru

            June 13th 2018 @ 5:30pm
            soapit said | June 13th 2018 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

            spruce the game would be (and always has been) almost impossible to play the way you think it should be whether you have realised it or not.

            imagine having to work out the different speed you have to throw it backwards depending on how fast you were running forward.

            if you can look over the fact it was made by the aru theres a very good video of it here

            • June 13th 2018 @ 8:15pm
              Rob said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

              How fast forward are the passers hand traveling soapit smaarty pants? Let’s say 10Km because that how fast I run and my hands are attached to my body ( I’m passing the ball). I would then have to generate 10Km of backwards hands speed momentum at the point of release to enfact stop the balls forwards motion out of my hand. The variables that come into play after that are eralivant. Your video shows the passer continuing to run and the ball continues forward? I’m sorry to say the ball doesn’t have legs brother. In fact it is actually slowing down as soon as it left the hands because it doesn’t have any wings or propeller to keep it moving because I and every other organisms on the earth doesn’t live in a vacuum either.

              • Roar Guru

                June 13th 2018 @ 11:07pm
                Edward Kelly said | June 13th 2018 @ 11:07pm | ! Report

                Rob: and the earth is flat. You just keep ignoring the Physics because you don’t understand it, fine by me but don’t ever build a bridge.

              • June 14th 2018 @ 7:25am
                mushi said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

                Wow so you accurately know how fast you are running at all times?

                that’s a rare gift

              • June 14th 2018 @ 7:57am
                mushi said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

                double…

              • June 14th 2018 @ 7:57am
                mushi said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

                Also I think big Arties Corpse might be able to beat you in a foot race!

              • Roar Guru

                June 14th 2018 @ 12:47pm
                soapit said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

                rob im pretty sure i dont have the capability to explain it to you

                “eralivant” was the cherry on top though

        • June 13th 2018 @ 5:08pm
          Simon Murray said | June 13th 2018 @ 5:08pm | ! Report

          Sorry mate but you are part of the problem. I think there is a universe where we can consistently rule on forward passes. You aren’t helping find a solution.

          Just because its hard doesn’t mean the video ref can’t try does it? When the video ref skips the blatantly forward pass to check the grounding it really pisses me off. Even if the nrl says we can’t rule on these things I wish the people employed would stand up and say “i think this was a forward pass and the nrl doesn’t think i have the ability to make that decision”

          • June 14th 2018 @ 12:01pm
            Clint said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

            They can rule on them in union and it still attracts a tonne of controversy. Do people really want the bunker to have one more reason to get dragged over the coals on Monday morning?

            • June 14th 2018 @ 5:13pm
              Simon Murray said | June 14th 2018 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

              Ah Clint do you prefer some vague notion of flow over accuracy? I pick being right over being wrong even if it incurs a few more kfc ads

              • June 14th 2018 @ 7:04pm
                Clint said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

                I get where you’re coming from Simon but until the technology allows the bunker to see what the ball does immediately out of the hands (e.g. camera directly overhead and perpendicular to try line) it will still be subjective. Hence the video ref in union still attracts controversy when they call on forward passes. The alternative that some on here suggest where the ball has to be caught back from where it was passed would be easier for the video ref to call on with the current tech but it is a no for me – kills off flat play and passes to support players after breaks at speed.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 6:40pm
          Rob said | June 13th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

          I don’t think it’s been a rule for 110 years! The current interpretation is why we have a problem and the supposed physic professors that give examples of speeding cars and freight trains as examples that have created a total misconception of the word backwards.

          • Roar Guru

            June 13th 2018 @ 8:08pm
            soapit said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:08pm | ! Report

            or just highlighted existing misconceptions and the difficulty in overcoming them

            • June 13th 2018 @ 10:33pm
              Rob said | June 13th 2018 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

              Picture the seen it’s the GF. JT’s final game and he’s playing the Storm. His old mate, the cheating basted Smith. How the hell did they made it, no one knows( rules must have changed halfway through the season). Revenge is sweet.
              The Cowboys are down by 4 and it goes to Thurston 30 out as the siren sounds. He got no one in support as per usual because he running backwards. He hooks a kick to the far side where only Feldt is chasing. He’s sprinting at top speed and leaps at top speed and throws his arms up to bat it back 2m short of the try line it comes of his hand. Wow, his smashed that. It’s gone back infield and eluding every Storm player as it bounces 6 inches short of the dead ball line directly behind the post. It sits up and bounce back. Oh my GOD (JT) has dived between Smith’s legs as he is watching it role dead. What’s happened there Smithy is rolling around on the ground and JT is laughing hysterically. The Ref’s and touch judges are confuring. What’s this they are listening to the earphone. We have try check for grounding? WTF Gould has stripped off and appears to be getting ready to jump from the box. Joey takes control (ok not possible) anyway he’s attempting to explain the replay. JT has dive between Smith’s legs and planted the ball with one hand, the other hand has upper cut Smithy in the balls (totally accidental of course). The crowd is laughing and Slater is going nuts. What are they looking at? Surely that’s not a try. It’s gone 8m forward. Hang on they’re saying JT kicked the ball at 35km/hr forwards and Feldt was running at 38km/hr when he slapped at the ball. Was it attempted pass. Hmm this is interesting we need another 6 angles and 16 replays. This is unbelievable Todd Greenberg has suddenly appeared on the screen and says his borrowed channel 9’s hawk eye( they didn’t need it anymore) oh dear this is embarrassing it’s showing a six stitch instead of a football. Doesn’t matter. it’s saying it’s calculated the ball has come backwards of Feldt’s hand? It’s gone backwards Joey says “I told ya, like throwing a ball from the speeding bus”.The Ref awards a try. Gus jumps Fatty wakes up and wobble’s his head “what’s going on” he says. The ref give Smith 10 in the bin for swearing (totally out off character but it’s about time). I can’t believe it NQ go wild as JT lines up the kick. He can hardly stand up the old champ. Oh no he’s hit the crossbar. Extra time. Unbelievable.

          • June 14th 2018 @ 12:35pm
            Clint said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

            Rob, do a search on 1991 and 1992 Winfield cup tries of the season and watch the videos. I got less than 5 minutes into the 1991 video and already saw at least a handful of passes that traveled forward relative to the ground (i.e. they were running fast, passed it backwards but it was projected forwards by momentum), so it has been happening for a long time.
            Making a blanket rule where all passes must be caught backward from where the pass was made will eliminate flat, fast play at the line and pretty much every try where a player making a line break hits top speed and passes to a support runner slightly behind them.
            A prime example is Maloney to Tedesco in the first half of origin 1 – Teddy catches the pass at least 2m forward from where Maloney lets it go. No way would I call that forward, nor did anyone else. It was a beautiful passage of play and had it been Munster passing to Morgan I would have thought it was fine too. A blanket rule such as the one I describe above would wipe those plays out of the game.

            • June 14th 2018 @ 3:14pm
              Chris Love said | June 14th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

              Don’t bother Clint. His basic powers of comprehension are zero. Move on.

      • June 14th 2018 @ 12:16pm
        no one in particular said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

        It’s too subjective

    • June 13th 2018 @ 6:28am
      mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 6:28am | ! Report

      Greenberg has hung the referees out to dry with this. The same people he is placating now will complain about the counterfactual next year and he will reverse course once again erasing any progress towards any kind of goal.

      Everything he does just reinforces that he is a survivalist first and foremost, with very little conviction and/or desire to be a leader. One guarantee when you try to please everyone is that you will end up pleasing no-one, he’s just hoping to deflect the accountability for that end goal.

      Between his willingness to embed a stop loss for his career perception into every strategic decision and the inherently dysfunctional “Independent” commission I truly fear for the NRL.

      Despite the a changing media landscape, and a litany of case studies to suggest complacency is ill founded, sports like the NRL are behaving under the assumption that their business model, which didn’t really exist 30 years ago, is impervious to the change in broader media consumption.

      We talk about expansion, the NRL has probably never been in a worse position for expansion.

      We’ve got a governing body that incentivises the current 16 clubs, we’ve got a cowardly CEO, we have a governance structure for the clubs which outright encourages fraud, we have a paucity of strategic capabilities in the executive and we are one of the extreme laggards for multi-platform fan engagement.

      If you were asking me to buy stock in any of the four winter codes I would short Rugby League over all of them as long as Greenberg is CEO, mainly because the ARU already is at rock bottom and has the ability to coat tail offshore.

      And that’s without factoring in that international leagues, US in particular, are going to take swathes of market share from us with a more progressive media strategy.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 13th 2018 @ 7:33am
        BA Sports said | June 13th 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        Todd Greenberg needs to stop interfering with the on field product. That is not his area of expertise. And now you have him being puppeteered by a guy in Beattie who knows even less and it puts the game in a whole world of pain.

        Brian Canavan is the head of football – this is his job.How come for all the football related issues that have been around in 2018, we haven’t heard a peep from him? Unfortunately Brian is so slow to respond to anything, he probably still has a committee in place reviewing the unlimited tackle rule.

        The three most important people in the game and none of them either no what they are doing, or are doing the role they are supposed to be doing.

        The best thing NRL fans could do would be start a change.me page to encourage Cricket Australia to give Todd the job he wants..

        • Roar Guru

          June 13th 2018 @ 8:28am
          Nat said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

          I really hope you are not right BA but now you mention it, it does stink like Beattie. The appease everyone you have to face despite the best interest of the whole.

          • June 13th 2018 @ 8:02pm
            elvis said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

            I’m struggling to think what he did in his Qld premier disaster that made anyone think he should be in charge of anything ever again. Told everyone what they wanted to hear until the place fell apart.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 10:27am
          Birdy said | June 13th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

          “still reviewing the unlimited tackle rule”
          Really really funny but unfortunately , probably true.

      • June 13th 2018 @ 7:34am
        Brian Jones said | June 13th 2018 @ 7:34am | ! Report

        And worst of all , we have fans that use words that no one in the English speaking world knows the definition of , “laggard , paucity?
        I do agree with you though , on the “stuff” that is comprehensible.
        Greenberg is a ghost on most days , except payday.
        Beattie , with the assistance of his new found lap dog are piling the earth atop of the rugby league coffin, one spoonful at a time , in the hope that nobody notices what they are doing .
        RIP Rugby League .

        • June 13th 2018 @ 9:07am
          mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          Gee you know you’re on a rugby league forum when you get grief for using your vocabulary in the correct fashion!

          Surely laggard isn’t that tough 😉

          • June 13th 2018 @ 11:18am
            Brian Jones said | June 13th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

            You have to understand that The majority of league fans are just lowly troglodytes.

            • June 13th 2018 @ 2:20pm
              mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

              The use of troglodytes deserves a yellow card

              • June 13th 2018 @ 3:40pm
                Brian Jones said | June 13th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                As long as there’s consistency, I don’t have an issue with it.

              • June 13th 2018 @ 3:46pm
                Mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

                NRL commentator consistency or English language consistency?

              • June 13th 2018 @ 8:13pm
                Brian Jones said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:13pm | ! Report

                The use of the yellow card .

        • June 13th 2018 @ 6:42pm
          Doc79 said | June 13th 2018 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

          Yeah, stick with ‘done/goes good’ for league fans. No room for use of proper English.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 8:51pm
          KiwiBear said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

          I suggest you buy a dictionary and stop letting those with agendas feed you what they would have you beleive is in the best interest of the game.

    • June 13th 2018 @ 6:48am
      Mycall said | June 13th 2018 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      It’s unfortunate that those who shout loudest win this battle “on behalf of the fans”. Buzz Rothfield frustrates the hell out of me when he says the fans want this or that. On the Roar, the overwhelming majority of comments have been for the crackdown because it makes sense.
      I used to have somewhat respect for Greenberg, but this year in particular he irks me in the over-reactive press conferences. I don’t want the CEO or whatever his role is dictating to the referees how to do their job as if he is some messiah that knows everything. If he was a true leader, he would trust and back his team and he wouldn’t throw them under the first news van he sees trying to win the approval of the media.
      He should back his refs and the refs bosses and on their behalf name and shame the real culprits who are ruining the game. The players argued they should be partners in the game but it seems that they only caring about sharing the profits not making the game better. The RLPA and the prominent players within the RLPA should take the blame for the inaptly named “gamesmanship” of players whose only way to play the game is to cheat.

    • June 13th 2018 @ 7:31am
      Paul said | June 13th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      There’s one point where I really dsiagree AJ. I don’t think we were split down the middle on this issue of refs and penalties, I think there were effectively two camps. One was the overwhelming numbers of the public who were initially sceptical about the change, but quickly embraced it as they saw the benefits to the game. This camp also included Greenburg, some Clubs and the bulk of referees.

      The other camp were predominantly the media led by those bobble heads at Channel 9 and the Fox media. They included a few members of the public and Clubs you named who were going to have to play more football in the future or risk being penalised. This group is by far the minority, but because of their media access, had by far the biggest voice.

      It remains to be seen whether Greenburg’s watered down policy will work or not. The true test will come over the next 2 or 3 rounds. I suspect it will be a consistency disaster, but the only ones to blame are those who think they know everything about the game, and they’re in the minority.

      • Roar Guru

        June 13th 2018 @ 8:22am
        The Barry said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Bang on Paul.

        I reckon it runs 80%+ of fans support the crackdown despite the pain and damage to “the spectacle” or “the flow”

        But among that 20% are the blokes with the microphones.

        Is it any real surprise Greenberg caves when he is getting personally called out as responsible on national TV every Thursday, Friday and Sunday and on panel shows and in newspaper articles? Disappointing yes, surprising no. Self-preservation is inherent in all of us.

        I think we’d got to the stage that something needed to change. The ‘crackdown’ had its own issues with consistency and hadn’t been effective in weeding out the cynical, deliberate penalties and created a boring stop start game.

        A continuous improvement cycle includes a review and revise phase.

        I’m absolutely bushwhacked that full scale retreat would be the result of that review.

        This just reeks of a knee jerk reaction rather than part of a strategic plan.

        • Roar Guru

          June 13th 2018 @ 8:33am
          Nat said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          “Self-preservation is inherent in all of us” Is there any other reason why they would go public with this decision as opposed to a quiet word in the ear of the refs? He would rather be seen and be written about as the hero rather than the boss.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 13th 2018 @ 9:01am
          Don said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          It beggars belief that CH9 continues to allow its commentators to continually rubbish the game that they have paid so much to broadcast.
          Whilst I’m not saying they should be gagged. The long rants against refs decisions and the NRL during games is counterproductive to attracting viewers to their broadcast.

          And given ratings and attendances are up this year, surely that sends a signal that the most important decision makers, the fans, aren’t leaving the game because of ref crackdowns despite what Gould, Rothfield and their mates would like to think.

          The bosses at CH9 and other media should be saying to these guys “we’ve paid a fortune for this game. Stop bagging it when all available evidence points to you being wrong.”

          Instead, we are left with ongoing episodes of controversy corner…

          • June 13th 2018 @ 11:41am
            Fix the scrums said | June 13th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

            Channel 9’s league tv ratings seem a little soft. The Friday night game only just scrapes into the top 20 nationally. That could be why they are so critical.
            Foxtel on the other hand has a much better offering and is rating very well.
            9’s commentators should be looking at their own broadcast and making improvements if they are worried about slipping ratings . Don’t hear Foxtel complaining much.

        • Columnist

          June 13th 2018 @ 9:03am
          AJ Mithen said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

          Disagree with your 80/20 TB but I do think it was more 60/40 in favour. You’re bang on about who is the loudest though.

          The most overused yet useless word in all this is ‘consistency’. We’re never going to get it, crackdown or no crackdown. I really do object to people ignoring the error count when they talk about a stop-start game, but that gets in the way of a good ref bashing.

          • Roar Guru

            June 13th 2018 @ 9:19am
            The Barry said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

            I think consistency is relevant when you’re having a ‘crackdown’

            In the name of game flow you can be subjective in what is penalised. But if youre running a self titled crackdown you can’t let some go and ping others.

            Anyway, I do tend to agree with you. My main gripe is that the crackdown hasn’t really addressed the key issue of players deliberately conceding penalties.

            This is the worst element of the game at the moment. There was an interesting discussion yesterday about the refs tightening the screws further and doing away with six warnings then a sinbin.

            I think that would have been a better next step than winding everything back completely.

            • Columnist

              June 13th 2018 @ 9:27am
              AJ Mithen said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

              I read that discussion yesterday, it was great. I’m firmly in the pre-match warning camp. Sadly it’s all for naught now…

      • Columnist

        June 13th 2018 @ 8:59am
        AJ Mithen said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Paul – great post, thanks. I get what you’re saying, maybe ‘split down the middle” isn’t the best phrasing. But in this case I’m wary of saying one camp was massively larger than the other. A cursory look at social media shows that there were more than enough people who didn’t like what was going on. I can’t give their views less weight just because I disagree.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 9:14am
          mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          But the cursory view needs to take into account those that complain are more likley to voice their views than those that support.

          • Columnist

            June 13th 2018 @ 9:19am
            AJ Mithen said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

            that’s a given isn’t it though Mushi. Those who were being quiet just sigh with resignation when maybe more noise was required.
            Off topic – I really enjoyed the smackdown you handed out in the LeBron v Jordan article comment section yesterday. No survivors!

            • June 13th 2018 @ 2:50pm
              mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              It’s a given but it is still a trap when assessing the support. Agree those that supported it could have been more vocal but then likewise the CEO could have some conviction given it’s his job to think strategically.

              Thanks on the NBA one, I really hate articles like that.

      • Columnist

        June 13th 2018 @ 1:28pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 13th 2018 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

        Well said, Paul. It’s hard to put an exact figure on it, but it certainly felt like 80/20 was a fair assessment to me.

        Really disappointed the NRL backed down here.

      • June 13th 2018 @ 2:07pm
        bbt said | June 13th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

        Spot on!!!! Agree.

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