The NRL has defended a controversial wall used by Sydney Roosters to end the Gold Coast’s season but head of football Graham Annesley admits the vague law may be changed at the end of the season.
An interpretation of the NRL’s rule against walls allowed Roosters halfback Sam Walker to nail the field goal in a 25-24 win despite two players standing directly beside the play-the-ball.
Replays of the elimination final shows Roosters forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley moving into position to the left of the ruck as marker Mitch Rein slips between them to put pressure on Walker.
Under the laws of the game it should constitute a penalty for obstruction, but Annesley agreed with the referee’s call to award the field goal, saying it’s consistent with how it’s been ruled all season because Rein was never impeded.
Annesley used his Monday briefing to show numerous incidents in which walls have not been penalised this year.
“Whether the rule should be addressed or not is a different question, and I’m happy that we discuss that at the end of the season, but we can’t change interpretations of things that have been happening right through the season just because we get to the finals series,” he said.
“I’m very happy to review whether this sort of positioning of players in these types of situations should be reviewed for next season and beyond.”
It will come as cold comfort for the Titans.
The NRL law states that a wall is formed when two or more players stand “side-by-side” next to the play-the-ball and don’t allow the opportunity for a defending player to move directly towards the player in possession.
The referee will then penalise for obstruction.
Annesley reasons that the wording of “side-by-side” is intended to mean “shoulder-to-shoulder” and could be clarified at the end of the season.
However, he admits a grey area could have been raised if Rein had collided with one of the Roosters’ defenders – appealing for a penalty instead of attempting a charge down.
“If circumstances were slightly different and there was a collision, very different decision for the officials to make,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NRL also defended the controversial call to award a penalty try to Parramatta’s Will Penisini in their 28-20 win over Newcastle as well as Clint Gutherson’s drop kick for the assist.
Annesley confirmed a drop kick can be used at any point in a game as long as there is intent and the ball is kicked immediately after hitting the ground.