Todd Payten and Justin Holbrook have found an ally in Bulldogs general manager Phil Gould in their claims that referees are biased against the lower-ranked teams.
Holbrook voiced his frustrations after the Titans lost a controversial Round 1 clash to Parramatta that the “big clubs” get preferential treatment and Payten echoed those sentiments after his Cowboys were thumped by the Roosters on the weekend.
Gould, who has overseen a high-profile recruitment drive at Canterbury but the team is still struggling with a 1-3 record after the first month of the season, claimed on 100% Footy that NRL head of football Graham Annesley had conceded the point privately when speaking to the coach of one of the teams down the bottom of the ladder.
“I 100 per cent agree. I know a coach of one of the lower sides who actually rang Graham Annesley one day and just said we don’t get the rub of the green,” Gould said on Nine’s 100% Footy.
“And Graham Annesley, in his own words, said that there is an intrinsic bias towards the better teams. There is an intrinsic, nit-picking of the lower teams.
“Now if you think about penalty blitzes that we’ve had over the years, we can go for the first 10 weeks of the competition and have 25-30 penalties a game and they’re blitzing on everything. We get to the Origin and they have five or six penalties and it’s a 10 times better game.
“And their excuse is, ‘Well they’re better players, they don’t cheat’. Well of course they cheat, but that’s their excuse to stop the penalty blitz.
“What I’m saying is that there is an intrinsic thing that the battling team, the lower team is doing something illegal to bring the top team back to the field. And he admitted it.”
Seven years after his $10 million lifetime deal rewrote NRL record books, Manly players have declared Daly Cherry-Evans’ next contract will rightfully create more history.
Only formalities remain to be tidied up, with Manly set to confirm a new two-year deal with the Kangaroos halfback as soon as this week.
The new contract will see 33-year-old Cherry-Evans remain at the club until at least the end of 2025, with his so-called lifetime deal signed in 2015 expiring next year.
It means Cherry-Evans (265 games) is on track to surpass Cliff Lyons (308) as the club’s most-capped player, as well as rivalling Steve Menzies’ record of 349 games for Manly and former merger Northern Eagles.
In turn, teammates believe it will cement his status as an all-time club great. “He definitely (deserves it),” hooker Lachlan Croker said. “Winning a comp here and playing for 15 years or whatever by the end of it, it’s really important.
“He will be so proud of what he has done … being able to look back on that in 50 years time, that’s all you can hope for.”
Extending Cherry-Evans contract beyond his 36th birthday is not seen as a risk for Manly, given his current form.
“It’s the things like kicking us in corners and tightening our defensive line up are the things non-footy watchers don’t really understand,” Croker said.
“But within our walls he is a very much one of the most respected players here, and what he does for our team is very important.”
Cherry-Evans’ new deal will likely be worth less than his current one, which was, at one point, the richest in NRL history with $1.2 million a year to keep him from moving to Gold Coast.
He would have been seen as a likely target for new franchise the Dolphins given his Redcliffe links, and has routinely been linked with other clubs. But Cherry-Evans has always insisted he wanted to stay.
The deal comes with Manly without a CEO, while fellow half Kieran Foran has also indicated his desire to play on and expecting to stay.
Head of football Graham Annesley has warned players they risk being sin-binned if they deliberately bring a game to a stop in order to force a captain’s challenge review.
Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook employed the tactic in last Friday’s loss in Penrith because he thought a Panther had knocked on and wanted to stop play so Souths could call for a bunker review.
Captain’s challenges can only be requested during breaks in play so if a referee misses a knock-on and allows play to continue, teams are intentionally conceding penalties to get a review.
The tactic backfired on Broncos hooker Jake Turpin who was sin-binned in the loss to the Warriors. He was yelling “captain’s challenge” as soon as the penalty was awarded but by then it was too late and he had to go off for 10 minutes.
“A team can’t try to create a stoppage in order to challenge something that has previously been missed,” Annesley said. “If there is a natural stoppage, then they can challenge the reason the referee caused the game to stop.
“Some people will say it doesn’t matter as long as we get the right decision in the end but there has to be some parameters, otherwise we would have stoppages to play all the time.
“Once they think they get a decision changed, they would just be coached to give away a penalty so they can go back and challenge the original decision.”