Eight talking points from NRL Round 19

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

By Scott Pryde, Scott Pryde is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    Talk about controversy! The referees are back in the picture this week as unravel Round 19 with another edition of talking points, but there is plenty more than just that incident to talk about.

    We have to talk about referees again and Ricky Stuart has a point
    No. No I don’t want to talk about the referees. But I have to, don’t I? I just don’t have a choice after that absolute farce on Friday night.

    Why did Ricky MacFarlane have to go and stick his flag in the air, only for the referee and bunker to completely ignore it and award a try.

    Even the most one-eyed, passionate Cronulla supporters can see it’s the wrong decision, yet, all the shocker does it bring to a head the way the game has been officiated all season long.

    Now, there aren’t that many times I have been in agreement with Ricky Stuart, but his rant at the referees was pretty reasonable by his (and to be fair, other coaches) standards on Friday night when he fronted the press after the Sharks win over his Green Machine.

    The point which stuck with me was about how the rules seem to change every week – and to be frank – they absolutely seem to for the average fan, coach, player, commentator or other.

    The interpretation shouldn’t be that difficult to get right, but when the referees are cracking down on every blight in the game one week and not the next, you have to shrug your shoulders, shake your head and ask what on Earth is going on.

    Now, the touch judge putting his flag up only for a try to be scored after going through the bunker is a somewhat isolated incident. You haven’t seen it before and more than likely, it’s not going to happen again.

    But it just goes to show, when there are a stack of isolated incidents, rules being let go and coaches not knowing exactly how the game is going to be officiated from week-to-week, there is a major problem. A major problem with those in charge of the referees.

    We need to iron it out, set the rules and play to them. If that means high penalty counts, so be it.

    Granted, other sports are copping their fair share of heat when it comes to officiating, but this latest NRL farce has turned our attention back in the wrong direction as we reach the crucial end of the season.

    Bernard Sutton oversees the NRL video bunker

    (The Roar)

    …And speaking of the crucial end of the season.

    2018 is making a great case for promotion and relegation
    There have been some meaningless matches in the last few weeks, which, frankly, isn’t a great look so many weeks from the end of the season.

    The top eight this year is seemingly decided at the end of Round 19 (and some have been saying it’s been decided for some weeks already), leaving a good six weeks to go – with plenty of teams playing for nothing in the run to the finals.

    It ruins the spectacle and worse, creates the potential for a heap of dud games where players not playing for contracts start thinking about next season.

    While I’m not suggesting players would go out not at their best, there is that nagging doubt that an injury at this point of the season playing for nothing could ruin the start of the next season by virtue of effectively not having a pre-season.

    Not only that, but the lack of big games and fixed scheduling before Round 1 is now creating a monstrous headache for television networks who are stuck showing games which are about as important as the average one day international in cricket – a match which no one is going to remember the result of in a few weeks time.

    The Eels – who sit at the bottom of the table – have now been on free-to-air TV two weeks in a row, against clubs who also have nothing to play for in the Knights and Bulldogs.

    How that is supposed to entice fans to tune in is beyond me. Of course, we can bemoan the game becoming ‘made for telivision,’ but then, where is the money coming from?

    Estimates suggest more than three-quarters of the money being pumped into the competition is through TV rights. So why would we want to annoy them?

    That’s where the debate about promotion and relegation comes in.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers. You would first need a nationalised second-tier competition, which has been talked about, but even then, is mainly reserve grade of the top 16 clubs.

    There would need to be a lot of water to pass under the bridge before we get to that point, but it works well for football competitions around the globe, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t here.

    It creates passion in a bottom of the table clash and stops teams from progressively getting worse throughout the season, fighting for every competition point to keep their spot in the top league the following season.

    Do I want to see my club disappear from the NRL? Of course not.

    Do I want to see important games from Round 1 to 25 in every timeslot though? Of course I do.

    I’m not 100 per cent sure where the happy medium is and maybe it’s not full promotion and relegation between the top and mythical second-tier, but the NRL have to find it because as it stands, there are too many games which no one outside of those club’s supporters could give two hoots about.

    Parramatta Eels

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    The Dragons had to win, but let’s not jump the gun
    That was one heck of an important win for the Red V.

    They went to Townsville off two losses in a row with an (almost) full complement of players after the Origin window and simply had to come away with the two points, which they did.

    You can see exactly how much it meant to them in their team song. It’s been a pretty rough sort of stretch for the Red V with the chokers tag doing the rounds again.

    That win will lay off a few of the demons, but like the Panthers after their loss to Brisbane, consistency is going to be key down the final stretch of the season.

    The Dragons are a great team playing from in front and when they are in form, but have at times shown they are a little brittle trying to fight their way through the tough stretches – certainly, that’s how 2017 played out.

    While this is an extremely different team than the one rolled out 12 months ago, the Dragons do have plenty to do in getting back to their best if they are to make a run through the finals.

    The win in Townsville was just the first step in getting back on top. They might be second on the ladder, but they need to play like it from here to the end of the season.

    A reasonably weak run of opposition means minor premiers should be the outcome for St George Illawarra. Anything less will leave them grossly underprepared and out of sorts ahead of September.

    Ben Hunt runs

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    Now for consistency at Suncorp
    On paper, the Broncos aren’t the eighth best side in the competition. They are better than that, especially given the way certain members of their forward pack have been able to kick on and make names for themselves during the 2018 season.

    From Tevita Pangai Junior to Joe Ofahengaue, the forwards have been standing up to be counted for, but there is a lot to do in terms of winning week in and week out.

    The Broncos have an equal amount of games you can mark off as two points and games which will test them on the run to the finals. If they can win four of their final six, it will leave them in good stead ahead of the finals.

    Their win over the Panthers felt like moving time. They ran up a big score, attacked freely and with Anthony Milford and Koki Nikorima finding form off the back of a rolling forward pack, the key to them succeeding has well and truly been established.

    If the Broncos forwards can continue that level of dominance, they are going to be reasonably hard to stop.

    If they can’t though, they simply don’t have the nous to get themselves out of sticky situation.

    Playing from in front over the final weeks will be crucial. Good starts and runs of momentum should get them going in the right direction, with there being more than enough attack there to succeed from good positions.

    The Tigers are still kicking, but the Raiders are toast
    The Tigers performance against the Rabbitohs on Saturday evening was superb. They controlled the game from the outset and never looked to be in a heap of danger of dropping what will turn out to be a crucial two points.

    While Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall put in another good performance to deliver the Tigers their second win in a row, the club are still just four points out of the eight.

    You can never be quite sure what you’re going to get out of the Warriors, while the Broncos consistency is all over the place as already mentioned.

    While the top eight does appear to be more or less locked down, the Tigers going on a roll with plenty of talent across the park including the recently signed Moses Mbye would put them right back in the picture to cause a monumental boilover in the final rounds.

    On the other hand, the Raiders are done. Take it out of the oven, because the season has been well and truly cooked.

    In saying that, I don’t want to hear didly squat about the officiating from the Cronulla game. Their season didn’t end there, because, in truth, it’s been over for a while.

    Their first half against Cronulla in what was effectively a sudden death situation was nowhere good enough, nor have all the times the Green Machine have somehow managed to squander a lead in the final minutes.

    This is a team who just haven’t hit their stride in 2018. They look to have all the potential in the world, but it hasn’t clicked at key times – that’s why their season is over. Not because of a decision against the Sharks, no matter how farcical.

    Nick Cotric

    (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

    Speaking of the Tigers win…

    This was the loss South Sydney had to have
    The Rabbitohs had won nine straight coming into this weekend. That’s an incredibly good run of victories, and while not unprecedented, the men from Redfern couldn’t afford to go through to the finals without dropping another game.

    You start to think you’re invincible and then, boom. All of a sudden you lose one, don’t know how to turn it around and are out in straight sets.

    Having the loss this far from the finals allows the Rabbitohs to go back to training, work hard and remember how to turn things around when the going gets tough. It gives them time to adjust to that shock of losing after winning so many on the hop.

    They looked like a different team than the one who had been so dominant in recent weeks on Saturday though, and it’s important they don’t let a rot set in.

    While the level of footy South Sydney have been playing is far better than what they dished up on Saturday, the pressure is still on them next time they take the field to get back to their best.

    Losing one game at this point of the season is fine – losing two in a row could start a streak of them at the wrong time of the year.

    It’s likely the game against the Tigers was a one-off blip on the radar, sure, but the nagging doubt is there now.

    This is the loss they had to have, but a second wouldn’t be the way to go.

    Sam Burgess

    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    The Storm grind away again – and they will be tough to stop in September
    Ah Melbourne, they just know how to win.

    And why wouldn’t you? Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy. Even without Cooper Cronk out there helping to marshall the men from the Victorian capital around, they still have three of the smartest men to ever be involved in this sport.

    They found a way over the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday. It was anything but pretty, but the bottom line is they got the job done.

    This has been far from the Storm’s best season. Anything but almost. They have been sloppy at times and are a far cry from the team who blitzed everyone and never looked in doubt to win the competition last year.

    But when the whips are out and we get to September, they simply need to be close enough four times in a row for Slater or Smith to produce some magic and get the Storm to fall over the line.

    Going back-to-back has proven impossible for decades, but this Storm team feel a little bit different. Not many are rating them with the surprise big guns of the competition, but how can you overlook a team with the cattle they have?

    It’s impossible, and team will find it very difficult to put a victory over them in sudden death footy.

    Billy Slater

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    A dominant day for the Roosters must be the catalyst for a run to the finals
    It would be fair to say the Roosters have been somewhat underwhelming at times this year. That’s not a huge knock on the club, because at the end of the day, they are going to play finals footy.

    But with their roster, anything less than a premiership – or at the very least a run to the grand final – wasn’t going to be enough this year.

    An already strong roster adding Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco (granted, Mitchell Pearce went elsewhere) should go to the top and stay there.

    Their consistency has been baffling in a lot of ways this season, particularly in attack, where the team have simply refused to click at times.

    Trent Robinson has had a monumental task on his hands throughout the Origin period to keep some momentum rolling, but they have come out the other side sitting in the top four after Round 19, which, it has to be said is a pretty impressive effort.

    Running up a half-century on Manly now needs to be the momentum they take into the back end of the season. When they are at their best, attacking freely and running a muck on opposition defensive lines, the tri-colours are pretty good to watch.

    If the Roosters are going to make a fist of the finals though, it’s consistency they have to take into them. Their defence let them down a little during the second half against Manly, but given the game was all but over at halftime, that’s almost perfectly acceptable.

    There aren’t too many games left in the regular season, and while the Roosters have been on a run of wins, they haven’t been winning convincingly.

    The final weeks of the season may not be all that much about the result for the Roosters – although finishing in the top four would ease plenty of pressure – it’s more about how they play, how they gel in attack and what sort of rhythm they take into the finals series.

    The jury is still well and truly out on their premiership charge for now, but the signs are positive.

    Roarers, what did you make of Round 19? Drop a comment below and let us know.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 2000 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 6:54pm
      KenoathCarnt said | July 22nd 2018 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

      Sharks should be sitting 5th on the leaderboard…Absolutely rediculous Shark Park is a joke and teams like the Raiders or Warriors will never be respected by the league.

      • July 23rd 2018 @ 8:03am
        Cedric said | July 23rd 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        Sharks should be 8th as they were also gifted the game against Warriors with that forward pass to score in the 77min.
        Also a big talking point is Sundays refs howler when Cam Smith head highed Ken Mamaulo and then stood beside him and shoved Ken when he was attempting the play the ball. What a joke of a call and it was replayed on the big screen for the crowd to see again.
        Kearney’s after match media talk was telling.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 23rd 2018 @ 2:16pm
          Joe said | July 23rd 2018 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

          On that Cam Smith, Maumalo tackle…I initially thought it was a howler and watching it thought no way there’s an explanation because the ref called a knock on and Maumalo never lost the ball at all. On re watching and listening to the explanation the ref says that Maumalo broke Cam Smiths tackle and should have played on, there wasn’t a call for play the ball but Maumalo stopped and played the ball which they called as the knock on.

        • Roar Guru

          July 23rd 2018 @ 8:51pm
          Renegade said | July 23rd 2018 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

          “Gifted” after dominating the contest for 70 mins… cool story Cedric.

    • Roar Guru

      July 22nd 2018 @ 6:57pm
      Adam said | July 22nd 2018 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

      I don’t know how the Storm have managed to get to the top of the ladder. They just get the job done.
      I agree re: the Raiders. They’ve lacked the mental side of things all year. They should really be a top 4 side but have just struggled.
      I wonder how the Panthers are going to go coming into September. They have really struggled this past month or so

      • Roar Guru

        July 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am
        Scott Pryde said | July 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        And that’s why the Storm can’t be written off Adam. They aren’t playing well but still sit in the top four.

        Panthers are an interesting one. Coming out of Origin, I can kind of understand. That hangover should be finished by now though.

        • July 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am
          jimmmy said | July 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          I have thought the Storm were certainties to make the GF for a long , long time. I backed them to win it after they lost a couple of those early games . The only way they don’t make it is if they lose Smith . He is unstoppable in big games . They are not the certainties they were last year, but still odds on imo.

    • Roar Guru

      July 22nd 2018 @ 7:22pm
      Riley Pettigrew said | July 22nd 2018 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

      G’day Scott, interesting point re the anticlimax to the season. I think we are set up for an exciting finish with all eight finals teams battling it out for their final positions although I understand your concern regarding teams such as the Eels, Bulldogs and Sea Eagles dominating primetime.

      Just a little idea I worked out in my head while reading your talking points, how about a Super 8s concept. I know it hasn’t exactly worked for the Super League but it would appease the broadcasters with big matches every week. Think about this:

      Phase 1: 15-round regular season (each team plays each other once, first eight past the post progress to Phase 3)
      Phase 2: State of Origin/International period (one month off for representative fixtures, clubs play in Nines series across five cities)
      Phase 3: Super 8s (top eight continue the competition playing each other once more for a top four finish)
      Phase 4: Final Four (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3 semi-finals then grand final)

      Sure it is nowhere near perfect and I don’t know what could happen with the bottom eight teams but is just one of many different approaches. That’s roughly 28 weeks of football, imagine what such a schedule could do for crowds and ratings knowing that every match has some major consequence. Again, far from perfect and definitely not the schedule I would prefer but it might be crazy enough to work with some tweaks.

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 8:45pm
        shirtpants said | July 22nd 2018 @ 8:45pm | ! Report

        The nrl would lose too much money without the top 8 finals. The bottom teams have nothing to play for unless you introduce promotion/relegation. But once a team is relegated theyd go under.

      • Roar Guru

        July 23rd 2018 @ 7:26am
        Scott Pryde said | July 23rd 2018 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Yeah, don’t get me wrong – there are important games on the run in to the finals Riley and the top 8 is an intriguing battle at the moment.

        I don’t know what happens to the bottom 8 in your plan is the only problem, but there has to be something done because the top eight shouldn’t be locked in with six weeks to go, creating weeks of meaningless footy.

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 7:45pm
      Kangas said | July 22nd 2018 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

      Pivotal moment when Cameron Smith doesn’t get penalised today for stripping with about 20 to go and Melbourne get another favourable call .

      I know referring has stuffed up for decades, but how does C Smith get so lucky . Do refs actually analyse their errors ?

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 8:33pm
        CTSTORM said | July 22nd 2018 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

        Mate, you need specsavers. You had all the panalties coming your way in the first half including a couple of early forward passes.

        • July 22nd 2018 @ 9:13pm
          Sylvester said | July 22nd 2018 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

          Refs did in the first half what few do to the Storm – penalise them for their incessant slowing down of the ruck. Trouble is, they let them away with worse in the second half when the Warriors were desperate to get back into the game.

          • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:05pm
            Bill Larkin said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:05pm | ! Report

            So a conspiracy then? Someone from League HQ called the refs at half time to tell them to go easy.?

            • July 22nd 2018 @ 10:54pm
              Ian said | July 22nd 2018 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

              More likely a hint dropped to them about getting a reasonably balanced penalty count to avoid criticism, than specifically favouring Melbourne.

      • July 23rd 2018 @ 5:40am
        Marc said | July 23rd 2018 @ 5:40am | ! Report

        Did not see the Warriors game but Storm were gifted wins against Roosters and manly. What surprises me most is that NRL fans blow up more when sharks get the rub here and there but Melbourne get favoured just about every week every year. This club is really looked after big time and there’s not a journalist out there prepared to mention it.

        • Roar Guru

          July 23rd 2018 @ 9:46am
          Adam said | July 23rd 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          That’s because it is imagined

          • July 23rd 2018 @ 4:41pm
            Marc said | July 23rd 2018 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

            Yes Adam. Ask Barret, Kearney, Robinson and countless neutral fans if it’s imagined. My guess is that journo s walk on eggshells around the storm/smith issue.

            • Roar Guru

              July 23rd 2018 @ 4:47pm
              Emcie said | July 23rd 2018 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

              Yeah, cos journos love the storm….

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 8:06pm
      Bee bee said | July 22nd 2018 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

      Oh how I would love to see relegation.
      But…
      My mate Barry tells me it’s nonsense.
      He is right (maybe?)
      But I would so like to relegate the stuffing out of some teams. Drain the swamp so to speak. Send them back to the Neoprotozoic era to evolve into more complex organisms.
      Can we relegate Greenberg too. He can spend some time in charge of the second tier. Where his crackdowns can cause less meltdowns and the endless moaning of dinosaurs.
      So many possibilities.
      Over to you Barry.

      • July 22nd 2018 @ 9:42pm
        Big daddy said | July 22nd 2018 @ 9:42pm | ! Report

        Bee Bee,
        Not much good relegating Greenburg to 2nd division as this lot are just as bad.
        It’s like they’re joined at the hip, that’s why one of the reasons that thing’s are as bad as they are.
        It’s very obvious that the past decisions cannot be changed but for the sake of the game something should be done to rectify the future.

        Greenberg had an invitation to go on the footy show but declined which shows how much he disrespect s public opinion.
        Since the NRL commission has been introduced the game has gone backwards.

      • July 23rd 2018 @ 3:51pm
        Mushi said | July 23rd 2018 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

        Whilst I agree that relegation is misguided the biggest issue is how would you bring it into being?

        The clubs have effective control of the NRL (and the ARL) why would they implement a system that puts their survival at risk?

    • July 22nd 2018 @ 8:12pm
      Worlds Biggest said | July 22nd 2018 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

      cheers Scott, such a tight race for top 4 there is little margin for error. Souths were never in the game, Tigers were too good. Still waiting for a big game from Gagai, he has been underwhelming overall, think he is trying too hard and coming up with errors. The Tigers slowed down the play the ball which was very effective.

      Eels next week followed by back to back huge games against the Storm and Roosters.

      • Roar Guru

        July 23rd 2018 @ 7:27am
        Scott Pryde said | July 23rd 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

        Gagai has been a little bit off the mark at club footy this year – has a lot to do for Souths in the finals.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 23rd 2018 @ 12:06pm
        Joe said | July 23rd 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

        Gagai is a better wing and fullback than he is a centre.

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