THE JOY OF SEVEN: Finals Week One

se7enBy STEVE MASCORD
BEARING BAD NEWS
SHOULD referees be told at halftime if they have committed a major error in a big ticket match that has the potential to affect the outcome? The argument in favour of informing them is that they are likely to find out anyway, with video officials, reserve referees, strappers and even spectators coming into contact with them at the break. The argument against is that even if they don’t feel pressure to square up, there will be a perception to that effect which can be plausibly denied if they are not aware of their error. Neil Henry and  Shane Flanagan each decided against telling their players about the seventh-tackle try. “It’s like coaching players, you have to take into consideration what makes people tick,” video referee Justin Morgan said on ABC when asked whether it is common practice when asked whether it was common practice to tell referees at halftime of their stuff-ups.

SWINGS, ROUNDABOUTS AND EMPTY STANDS
LAST week we wrote about how rugby league has a habit of solving one problem, and then revisiting an old one as a result. The NRL insisted the double header was not a result of this interminable cycle, that they wanted it regardless of the AFL’s intentions. OK, we liked the double-header so well done. How about this? Finals in week one are poorly attended because teams in two games have a second chance. We respond in 1999 by introducing a system under which most week one games are potentially sudden death. This is scrapped as unfair. We return to a formula where the elimination games are clearly identified – and the crowds stay away. Back to square one? (Doesn’t explain the poor crowd on Sunday though).

CENSORS CENSORED
IS the NRL seriously suggesting that a coach who throws up suggestions of a conspiracy involving the administration and referees to influence the result of matches won’t be fined next year? The NRL censors have come badly unstuck with the seventh tackle drama. Neil Henry stopped short of saying he believed the conspiracy theories; under the previous League policy, that may have just saved him. But under this year’s crackdown on “excessive” criticism, it’s an insult to the intelligence to say he didn’t “step over the mark”. The only defence was that the situation justified the reaction – and that’s the very reason the NRL itself overstepped the mark in its draconian censorship.

BETTER OFF ALONE
ONE of the few positives at the weekend for the NRL administration was the double-header, which produced two fantastic games and a memorable atmosphere. Or was it? As it turns out, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson was not a fan. “I thought we could have filled that (stadium), just a Manly-Roosters game, if it was ticketed as that,” said Robinson. “It was a big clash, we could have done that better. Logistically, it was fine but I’m not sure if the crowd was as big as it could have been. From a Roosters point of view, I thought it could have been done differently from the NRL.” The combined attendance on Saturday was 32,747.

SHARP RETORT
PARRAMATTA chairman Steve Sharp has backed suggestions by Nathan Hindmarsh and Matthew Johns that Eels players were not all that unhappy to see coach Ricky Stuart leave. “I think the players were looking for a fresh start,” said Sharp. “I think that influenced Ricky’s decision. It may have been on his mind and influenced his performance.” Sharp also had this to say about Denis Fitzgerald’s offer to become involved in the club again: “Denis and other people who have been working behind the scenes to downtrod (sic) our club over the last few months need to take a bit of a holiday.” On players who reportedly have get-out clauses, Sharp said on ABC: “I’ve had no contact with any player managers saying they are not bringing their players to the club. In fact, if they don’t want to come to our club, I don’t really want them there.”

AND IN OTHER NEWS
ON a bad weekend for officiating, it’s worth noting that an innovation helped get two decisions right in one of the Under 20s finals. With the scores tied between Brisbane and Wests Tigers near the end of regulation time at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, Brisbane received two penalties in kicking distance. On each occasion, Wests Tigers used the ‘captains challenge’ facility being employed in Holden Cup this year and on each occasion, the joint venture won. The match went into overtime and Wests Tigers kept their season alive. The captains’ challenge is almost certain to be used in first grade eventually. Intriguing, though, than in identical circumstance in the NRL, the result would have been different.

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT
IT’S always bitter sweet when your favourite parodist joins the mainstream. And so it was when Denis Carnahan, the man behind the “That’s In Queensland” jingle, became part of the match-day entertainment at the weekend. Denis had to learn the words to “Give Your Love To A Cowboy Man” pretty promptly. But the implications of meeting those you send up was more stark when was asked to write and perform a song at the Canberra Raiders’ annual presentation night. A Raiders fan, Carnahan was initially given carte blanche when it came to subject matter. But as the Green Machine came a cropper, the list of taboo subjects – from Pineapple Cruisers to ASADA – got longer. He must have done a good job; the lyric sheet is destined for the pool room of club patriarch John ‘JR’ McIntyre.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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