THE BIG ISSUE: # 37

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

HERE at The Big Issue, we try to leave the on-field, rule-related stuff to fellow columnist Mark Geyer. He played for Australia, after all.

But when it comes to the debate over tries being disallowed due to obstruction rulings, you don’t need to have donned the green and gold to know something is awry.

Let’s use the shoulder charge ban as a base for the logic used in rugby league legislation. The vast majority of these tackles are harmless, but doctors still deemed them so dangerous that they successfully lobbied for their banning.

This ban is now worldwide.

Now, the practise being discouraged in the chalking-off of tries to Cooper Cronk and Brett Morris in round three is decoy runners colliding with defenders.

In the case of Morris, there is some argument Josh McCrone MIGHT have been able to prevent the try had Ben Creagh not run into him. Personally, I think this extremely unlikely.

But are decoy runners colliding with defenders such a scourge on rugby league that we need to eradicate it by denying fair tries, as we are penalising otherwise benign tackles to eradicate shoulder charges?

I would say no. I would say that most fans didn’t even THINK about the practice of decoy runners making contact with defenders until last Thursday night. I can’t recall a defender being hit by a decoy runner ever being seriously hurt (it has probably happened, though)  or doctors calling for an end to the practice.

When the collision is more than 14 metres away from the try, you would expect the likes of Luke Patten, Matt Rodwell and Justin Morgan to argue in favour of awarding the touchdown. There was no ex-player in the video box on Thursday night

But they have 60 seconds to convince the senior video referee to go against what has been presented as a hard-and-fast rule. Good luck.

Craig Bellamy said there was a danger of coaches halting all second-man plays close to the tryline. There is also the danger of defenders learning to fake being hit by a decoy.

It just seems like a rule interpretation for which we need to give the officials back their discretion.

.

THERE was something intangibly low-key about the first two weeks of the 2013 NRL season.

The football was good enough, even if some of the crowds were down. But patrolling touchlines, press conferences and dressingrooms, it was apparent to me that something was missing. Proceedings lacked the usual “edge”.

When Super League was in incubation, the footy became incidental. Match reports shrunk, games came and went, and the only two teams anyone really cared about were Packer’s and Murdoch’s.

The rest of the competition receded into the background for a few weeks when Melbourne were stripped for two premierships and had to play for nothing, too.

This year, it was ASADA and the ACC. Rugby league thrives on controversy but the game seems to resent it (and sulk a bit) when the drama is created from outside. It goes into its shell a bit, lamenting lost mojo.

Thankfully at the weekend, we had Billy Slater kicking David Klemmer in the face, Richie Fa’aoso flattening Ashley Harrison and Cooper Cronk plus Brett Morris being robbed of tries.

Not good for Klemmer and Harrison, of course…..

But it was almost as if rugby league was sticking its tongue out to ASADA, with its thumbs in its ears, saying “I’m not washed up as a publicity magnet just yet”.

There will be tough times ahead as the two sources of news battle it out for supremacy. Publicity helps ASADA with its investigations and the various interest groups have all hired spin doctors to selectively leak information.

But after a couple of weeks of moping about, Mr R League has regained his confidence, is walking with a strut and is up for the fight.

.

AS predicted, the Thought Police have launched an offensive against people criticising the ASADA Investigation into rugby league, with two writers suggesting at the weekend that anyone who has done so is a sycophant.

I was going to say ‘everyone’s entitled to their opinion’ but there are those who clearly don’t agree with that.

Let me repeat: no-one wants performance-enhancing drugs in rugby league. Does that mean we must support every aspect of an investigation which has already seen players invited for an interview only to be called back and told it was a case of mistaken identity?

No, I don’t believe it does.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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