Now that the dust has settled on the preliminary finals and we eagerly await the grand final this week, there are a couple of things we need to discuss before the season’s out.
Has the sin bin been put away for the year?
Some of the refereeing over the last couple of weeks has been poor to say the least, and this is going to be a major challenge for the NRL to get right sooner rather than later. But there are two recent examples of really poor refereeing where the sin bin wasn’t used when it was warranted, possibly impacting the finals results, and this creates a dangerous precedent going forward.
In the first incident, in the match between Souths and Parramatta, Damien Cook was penalised for pushing Junior Paulo down as he was rising to his feet to hopefully effect a quick play the ball in Souths red zone.
Penalty! No sin bin?
Mitchell Moses missed the penalty goal, as we all know, and Cook was instrumental in Souths’ try scored in the subsequent set.
Beats me – looked like a deliberate act by Cook which deserved both the penalty which was given and a sin bin.
In the second incident, in the match between Canberra and Melbourne on the weekend, Justin Olam was so far offside coming off his try line in defence that he was able to receive the pass from the Raiders’ first receiver.
Penalty! No sin bin?
Given how far the Raiders were behind at that point, awarding the penalty was no better for the Raiders than a six-again call. If Olam doesn’t get that far offside and catch the pass, the Raiders probably had their best chance of the match to that point of scoring a try and getting back into the game.
Olam was deliberately offside, interfered with the Raiders’ attack and should have been put in the bin.
Either the referees don’t know the rules or are too afraid to use them. If the referees put the sin bin away like this, we’re heading back to the bad old days of boring infringement-driven play. Does anyone really want to see this?
The NRL failed the Raiders
Peter Vlandys and company have received lots of deserved praise for getting to the game back onto the field and for some successful innovations around rule changes, but he failed the Raiders, their fans and the game last week.
The Raiders had planned to fly into Brisbane early on Friday for their preliminary final against Melbourne that night and spend the day in a designated hotel in the city. That plan had been in the works for several weeks, with the NRL having assisted in putting pushing for approval from the QLD government in the event Canberra qualified.
It would have allowed the Raiders to fly out of Canberra at 10 am, have a meal at a Brisbane hotel and spend a few hours resting and preparing for the game before heading to Suncorp for the 7:50 pm kickoff.
However, the NRL was told on Wednesday by the QLD government they would need to have several COVID-safe measures in place for hotel staff with only two hours to have them approved. Not surprisingly, the Raiders deemed this an impossible task, and players and staff left Canberra more than four hours later on Friday and were forced to head straight to Suncorp from the airport.
Hardly ideal preparation for one of the most important matches of the year.
Vlandys needed to stand up to the QLD government here and insist that the original request be granted. What sort of increased biosecurity risk could have resulted by arriving four hours earlier?
To me, Canberra’s fateful first 20 minutes against the Storm reflected their lack of suitable preparation, and I wonder how the Storm would have started the game if the positions were reversed. Imagine the furore if Melbourne, QLD’s only remaining team in the finals, were afforded the same raw deal.
Mark this down as a failure for Vlandys, who perhaps had his mind on the Everest instead of rugby league.
Just when is a tackle completed?
When Canberra hit the field in the second half against Melbourne it was clear that their halftime chat with Ricky Stuart had somewhat changed their mindset. Dale Finucane, running the ball out from the restart kickoff, was met by four or five Canberra defenders who held him up and forced him 15 metres back into the Melbourne in goal, forcing a goal-line dropout.
Melbourne returned the favour sometime later with a similar tackle on a Raiders player.
While this was good theatre and underlined the increased intensity of the second half, was it within the rules? Is it something we want to see in the game? In many respects, the tackles resembled a small scale rugby maul.
If it’s acceptable for defenders to deal with an opposition player in this way, would it also be acceptable if some attacking players helped to propel the ball carrier to the line?
I would have thought that the tackle should be called as completed once the ball carrier’s progress (forward movement) has ceased. If this tactic is allowed to continue, we run the risk of player injuries or, worse still, playing rugby!
Why do we have trainers on the field?
The continued presence of “trainers” on the field is a blight on the game, and really, why do we have them? Last year’s grand final incident involving a trainer was a real low point. Let’s face it, they’re not trainers at all, but on-field coaches.
In an era of professional sport, where players are paid a small fortune to get through 80 minutes of what is, after all, a very simple game, do they need on-field coaches to tell them where to stand, who to tackle and which way to run? What an embarrassment.
I remember being an on-field coach at my son’s soccer matches for a couple of years but I think that cut out at age seven when they could work out how to play the game by themselves. Do they have on-field coaches in junior rugby league?
Other sports like football, rugby union, AFL and American football seem to get by without them so let’s get them off the league fields as well.
Games are now played with plenty of interchange opportunities and breakdowns in play after tries, goal kicks, video reviews, Cameron Smith asking questions and so on, so if players need a little drink of water they should be able to do it then.