THE BIG ISSUE: #56

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

DIVING and deliberately conceding penalties. As we head into the finals, these are pressing on-field issues for our game.

Debate about the practice of “staying down” to attract as video review has been around for about a decade. So far, players and coaches publicly decry the act, but below the surface there is a tacit acknowledgement that sometimes it’s necessary.

When Paul Gallen made his “whatever it takes” comment after he attracted a penalty and winked at team-mates, he was hounded into recanting. But just because players don’t openly acknowledge doing something doesn’t mean they have no intention of doing it.

If there is a chance you will get a penalty on video review, I would estimate from watching around 100 games live each year that around half of players would stay on the turf even if they felt well enough to get up.

The deliberate concession of penalties is this year’s equivalent of diving. Whereas in the case of diving, the referee will always say “I’m not a doctor”, the retort for deliberately conceding penalties (I ran an inpromtu Twitter contest to come up with a snappier name for it and the winner was ‘Tandying’) is “I’m not a mind-reader”.

The only way to prove ‘Tandying’ would be to bug a team talk and hear a coach instruct his side to concede penalties when they are under pressure, defending their own line. Melbourne deny doing it, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says his club has been treated harshly by referees for over a decade and wants to work on discipline.

At fulltime in the Newcastle-Sydney Roosters game at Hunter Stadium on July 27 – the match directly referred to by Bennett in his media conference last Sunday – Sonny Bill Williams was asked on Triple M by Bill Harrigan if the tricolours had employed the practice.

“I’m not up to scratch with that kind of style, I just get out there and play, bro,” he responded. He then smiled. “I think I know what you’re trying to say, I’m just going to sit on the fence on that one.”

Relying on goodwill to keep these things out of the game is foolhardy. Eventually, everyone will do them and no-one will admit them.

The current interpretation that stops a video referee getting involved unless the incident is worthy of being placed on report should at least stop diving becoming the plague it is in soccer.

In the case of Tandying, the Super League system under which teams are placed under a general warning is worth considering. That aside, there is another simple remedy that’s been around for 30 years.

It’s called the sin bin.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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