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NRL News: Annesley denies obstruction rule is broken, Burgess delivers Souths sermon, Sharks face fine over trainer

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2nd April, 2024
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NRL football boss Graham Annesley has hit back at frustrations over the obstruction rule, saying the current interpretation was designed to prevent milking for penalties.

Obstruction has been under the microscope this season following several key calls.

The Sydney Roosters were denied a potential game-winning try in Thursday’s 22-16 loss to Penrith after decoy runner Jared Waerea-Hargreaves collided with Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards.

Annesley later said Joey Manu’s subsequent try should have been awarded, with Edwards unlikely to have covered enough ground from the point of contact to make a tackle.

In the days after the loss, Roosters players claimed the obstruction rule could be exploited, with players able to ‘buy’ penalties by colliding with decoy runners.

Canterbury forward Viliame Kikau raised similar concerns on Sunday. Claims the obstruction rule is too black-and-white can be traced to 2013, when the NRL moved to codify what constituted obstruction.

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Previously, obstruction had generally been determined at the discretion of match officials, without a framework to which players could adhere. But the rules still say “the referee or review officials can determine the significance of contact initiated by the block or flat runners … in impeding a defender’s involvement in a try scoring play”.

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Annesley said the rules, which give indicators for obstruction and a chance for referees to apply discretion, were the best way to deter NRL stars from playing for penalties.

“How do we prevent (playing for penalties) from being incentivised as an option? You make sure that if there is a doubt about whether a player would get there or not, in some cases, they don’t get the benefit of that collision,” Annesley said.

“If we make these decisions completely black-and-white, or too black-and-white, then that encourages milking. Because players will say, ‘I’m not going to get there so I’m just going to run into a lead runner, and that way there’s a fair chance that the try will be disallowed’.

“We don’t want to encourage that. We don’t want to see milking.”

Annesley said the Australian Rugby League Commission would review the obstruction rule in the off-season, but he was satisfied it remained fit for purpose.

“Over 11 years, this has stood the game in good stead,” he said. “We’re going to have debates about some of these things but we’ve got to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If this can be tweaked in any way to make it clearer, particularly to make it easier to officiate (it will be examined).

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“(But) the system is not broken. The fact is, they’re not getting it wrong all the time. They mostly get it right.”

Burgess delivers Souths sermon

South Sydney players have credited a pep-talk from veteran prop Thomas Burgess for helping the Rabbitohs snap their disastrous losing streak to begin the new season.

Souths dropped their first three games of 2024, crashing to last on the ladder for the first time since 2010 and placing Jason Demetriou’s coaching job under pressure.

But Friday’s 20-16 defeat of Canterbury, while hardly emphatic, helped ease scrutiny on the blue-chip club, which had been in the firing line since last season’s capitulation from finals contention.

After the club’s third consecutive loss, a 48-6 shellacking from the Sydney Roosters late last month, Burgess convened the playing group for a pep-talk.

Burgess is one of only two players from the Rabbitohs’ 2014 premiership-winning side that remains at Souths and reminded his teammates the club bounced back from a similarly slow to the season that year.

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The Rabbitohs won their first game in 2014, only to lose their next three and slump to 14th spot on the ladder.

But the side recovered in round five and went on to win 17 of their next 23 as they stormed to the grand final and notched a drought-breaking 21st premiership victory.

“(Burgess) just brought that up and it really changed everyone’s perspective and mind, that you can start but there’s still a lot of games to be played,” said centre Isaiah Tass.

“Everyone gets a little bit of a buzz off him.”

Burgess’ spiel made an impression on the younger cohort at Heffron Park.

“He rallied the troops,” said forward Tallis Duncan.

“Sometimes it’s good to learn from the older boys who have been through it hundreds of times, and just how to be a professional.”

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Burgess, who joins Super League side Huddersfield next season, said 11 previous campaigns with the Rabbitohs had put the slump in perspective.

“Obviously if I can use some experiences from the past, I will, to help the team,” he said.

“We’ve been there before, it’s nothing new, a lot of teams go through it, and you can start the year poorly and it’s not the end.”

Souths are set to field their fourth different back-five combination in five games this season when Izaac Thompson replaces Alex Johnston for Saturday’s clash with the Warriors.

Thompson trained on the left wing on Tuesday in place of Johnston, who is expected to miss up to six weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered against Canterbury.

“(Thompson) is a physical body, he’s tall, he’s big. He’s definitely going to be helping us out of yardage,” said Tass.

“We’re going to miss (Johnston) out there, scoring all those tries.

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“We know he’s trying to chase down a record (for most tries in a career) so hopefully this doesn’t put too much of a dent in him getting it this year.”

Sharks face hefty fine over trainer spooking goalkicker

Cronulla could cop a heavy fine after one of their trainers appeared to put Jamal Fogarty off as he attempted a crucial kick for goal in Sunday’s clash at Shark Park.

Former NRL player Daniel Holdsworth ran near Fogarty in his line of sight as the Raiders halfback tried to convert a James Schiller try in the 72nd minute of the contest.

Canberra trailed 30-22 at the time and if Fogarty had landed the sideline conversion, it would have made it a six-point margin heading into the final stages.

Holdsworth trotted past Fogarty as he moved in to kick the ball and the attempt hit the upright and bounced away. Cronulla went on to win 36-22 but according to a Sydney Morning Herald report, the Raiders intend to take the matter up with the NRL by lodging a formal complaint.

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Clubs have been fined $5000 for such actions in the past but Sharks legend Paul Gallen on 100% Footy was adamant Holdsworth should not have a case to answer because “he’s not in the field of play”.

“Fogarty is looking at nothing but the ball,” he argued.

Arthur confident rookie up to halves task

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur is confident Blaize Talagi is up to the task of replacing Mitch Moses despite the Eels’ loss to Wests Tigers in his first game starting in the halves.

Wearing the five-eighth jersey, Talagi marshalled Moses’ right edge on Easter Monday after the Eels’ creative architect was diagnosed with a foot fracture last week. The teenager had some strong moments in only his second first-grade game.

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Talagi notably put Clint Gutherson through a hole to give Parramatta a shot at Wests Tigers’ line in their first set of the day. He looked dangerous with the ball thereafter, though Dylan Brown and later Gutherson took on the bulk of Moses’ usual kicking workload.

High-school classmate and rival half Lachie Galvin beat Talagi on a line break that led to Jahream Bula’s try, hoisting the Tigers back into the contest. After that an Aidan Sezer field goal iced the TIgers’ 17-16 win in the dying minutes.

In all, Arthur was pleased with Talagi’s first hit-out as the Eels face the possibility of missing Moses for as many as seven more weeks.

“He’s a young kid, he’s learning,” Arthur said. “We’ve always said that. He’s played two games. He’ll be fine.”

Known for his running game, Brown also threatened to breach the Tigers’ defence throughout the clash at CommBank Stadium.

Arthur would not put the loss on his new-look halves combination. “We can’t be blaming them,” he said.

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“It’s a team effort right across the whole field. We had enough ball, we had enough opportunities, we just didn’t ice our plays.”

Arthur said the Eels’ attitude towards the game, not Moses’ absence, had cost them. Parramatta conceded two tries in five minutes midway through the second half as the Tigers stormed back into the contest.

For their part, the Eels had 29 play-the-balls in the red zone during the first half alone, but could not make the weight of possession count. “I think if your mindset is a little bit different, then execution probably sticks,” Arthur said.

“The last couple of weeks, even our loss to Penrith, we’ve played tough and we’ve rolled our sleeves up. But I think we were chasing a soft win.”

with AAP

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