By STEVE MASCORD
COACH John Cartwright said a highly contentions video refereeing decision had cost Gold Coast their season as calls to scrap golden point time extended even to Australia captain Cameron Smith.
The 2013 NRL regular season concluded with officiating drama when Titans five-eighth Aiden Sezer snatched up a wayward Billy Slater pass to score what he though was a match-levelling try with eight minutes to go in what was a sudden death game for Cartwright’s side.
But even though on-field official Shayne Hayne thought it was a try, that view was overturned by video referees Justin Morgan and Chris Ward, who ruled defender Ben Ridge had touched the Steeden as he tackled Slater.
Replays cast significant doubt on that decision and Ridge told Fairfax Media: “I don’t think I (touched it), I didn’t feel it. I went for Billy and it popped out. That was a turning point, that one.”
Asked about the call, a distraught Cartwright said: “It just cost us our season, didn’t it?
“I’m not a wealthy man, I’m not going to sit here and …. How he came up with the decision, I don’t know, I really don’t know.
“The refs on the field were shocked, the whole crowd were shocked.
“I’m emotionally drained. It’s heartbreaking. I’ve never felt like this, I don’t think, ever.”
Captain Greg Bird said Ridge “blatantly didn’t touch the ball, you could see he didn’t touch the ball Melbourne players on the field at fulltime, they knew he didn’t touch the ball. There must have been a secret camera angle.”
While Cartwright was wary of being fined $10,000 for criticising referees, he didn’t hold back when asked about the entire concept of golden point time.
“Get rid of it, it’s a sham. The defence from both sides were offside for the last eight minutes, or whatever it went for. It’s a lottery.”
Sezer agreed, saying: “The rules should be changed, we’re just going for field goals. It’s probably not good for the crowd, not good for the players.”
And Smith, whose side is set to go into the finals without a recognised five-eighth after a shoulder injury to Brett Finch, said he wasn’t a fan.
“If you can’t get a result out of 80 minutes, you should be happy with a draw,” said Smith. “Before that rule was brought in, how many years were we playing the game where we had draws?
“That rule has been brought in for the fans, which is fair enough, but you have to look at it from a player’s point of view.”
Despite the disallowed try, Gold Coast still managed to send the game into overtime after an intriguing confrontation between Origin rivals Billy Slater (Melbourne) and Greg Bird (Gold Coast).
With his side leading by six and just three minutes remaining, Slater retaliated while his team was in possession after being tackled heavily by Bird while held by another Titan.
Dave Taylor, outstanding all night, put winger Anthony Don over and Sezer converted. The deadlock lasted well into the second period of overtime, when Cooper Cronk landed a one-pointer from about 30 metres out.
“It’s about time I kicked one – looks like I’ll have to do some practice,” said Cronk. “These big games, you have to land the chances. I’m pretty disappointed in myself that I didn’t get two or three or four before that.
“We weren’t Melbourne Storm-like for the 80 minutes. We’re only one good training session away from being back in form.”
Melbourne’s Kenny Bromwich was involved in a cannonball-style tackle on Mark Ioane in the final quarter of the match which could attract the interest of the match review committee.
Gold Coast led 16-12 at halftime with Taylor almost unstoppable after replacing the injured Nate Myles in Cartwright’s starting side.
“Dave Taylor can play like that every week,” said Smith, “it’s up to him.”
Slater’s try double brought his total in the last five matches against Gold Coast to nine.
Titans replacement hooker Matt Srama suffered a dislocated shoulder after only about four minutes on the field and is unlikely to play post-season internationals for the Philippines.
MELBOURNE 23 (B Slater 2 S Waqa W Chambers tries C Smith 3 goals C Cronk field goal) bt GOLD COAST 22 (D Taylor Takairangi A Don tries A Sezer 5 goals) at AAMI Park. Referees: S Hayne/G Morris. Crowd: 13,826.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD