By STEVE MASCORD
YOU know how some rugby league columnists seem to have a go at the game’s administration every chance they get?
You know how you read their columns and wish they’d talk about something else?
I was one of you. Really, I was. Here at Discord, we’ve staunchly defended new NRL CEO David Smith, for example, saying he should be accountable to the game, not the Sydney media. I’ve never met him – and regard that as a healthy sign.
But recent events – on both sides of the world – have got Discord wondering whether rugby league really is going to some version of Hell in some version of a hand basket.
You already know what we think of a club administrator who presided over an alleged cover-up then getting – and so far, retaining – the second most senior position a headquarters. Not much. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that ringing people and asking them questions will be rendered a pointless exercise for rugby league reporters if the NRL endorses providing incorrect answers by doing nothing about that situation.
Let’s take you to Super League now, where Huddersfield – having secured the minor premiership – fielded an entire team of reserve graders on national television in the final round and were lapped 58-6 by Bradford.
The Rugby Football League found that the Giants fielded the best available team – even though all of their stars were miraculously back on deck for the play-offs the next week. Come again?
Unlike broadcasters in Australia, Sky try to help the game by giving all clubs more or less equal exposure throughout the season. Their goodwill has been thrown back in their faces by a club which – to be fair on them – is only playing by the rules. Rules that should be changed immediately.
We now move to Saturday, when North Queensland coach Neil Henry threw up – although didn’t explicitly endorse – the prospect of a conspiracy to get a Sydney Roosters-South Sydney grand final after his side was beaten by a seventh-tackle try.
“If you were … conspiracy theory (sic), you’d say ‘we’re so Sydney-centric, we don’t care about the boys up north’. The press talks about the ideal grand final – Souths-Roosters. Bring it on. Don’t worry about Melbourne. They’ve won a couple. Don’t worry about North Queensland. That’s what you want: the heartland of the game.
“Yeah, well we’ve just been dudded of an opportunity to maybe make a dent in this competition. Where’s our pull? We’re out of mind out of sight up there. You get a bit bitter when it’s happened to you two years.”
Later, Henry added: “What do you say, that there’s – as I said – a conspiracy theory? Let’s keep it Sydney-centric, as I said before?” If you watch the video, Henry then shrugs. “Who knows? How can you go down that track?”
In 2008, Craig Bellamy said this about the judiciary suspending Cameron Smith from the grand final and the link with bookmakers: “Bookmakers and betting agencies, they don’t guess, they’ve got good information – take that as you may.
“As soon as I saw that (market) on Wednesday morning … he was thousands.”
The club was fined $50,000 and the judiciary members initiated defamation action, even though Bellamy was specifically asked at the press conference whether was he suggesting the judiciary tipped off bookmakers and said no.It’s nonsense to say Saturday night’s conspiracy theory was aimed a reporters and not referees.
Did reporters give Beau Ryan a try on the seventh tackle? That was the entire context of the media conference: referees.
I am not calling for Neil Henry to be fined, I am calling for the NRL to pull itself out of this freefall of inconsistency before it finds itself splattered all over the ground. I don’t think Neil Henry believes the referees were in cahoots with the League but as a result of his comments, hundreds – or maybe thousands – of people do.
As we said in – ahem – Joy Of Seven, the NRL has extended its powers to fine coaches beyond comments which are defamatory to criticism deemed “excessive”. As a result of being subjective, this rule is unenforceable and stupid. It’s no co-incidence that this change came when the solicitor who used to run the NRL, David Gallop, left.
Solicitors know the importance of precedence, consistency and transparency. Footy officials, historically, have struggled with those concepts.
Do Saturday’s match officials have grounds for any legal action over the “conspiracy theory”? One thing’s for certain, the events of last weekend indicate Manly were dudded by their $10,000 fine almost as severely as the Cowboys were by their seventh-tackle try.
Like I said: Hell, hand basket.
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By STEVE MASCORD