THE JOY OF SIX: NRL Nines

The Joy Of SixNO HARD FEELINGS
LACHLAN Coote hasn’t given up on playing again this year despite suffering the fourth serious injury of a comparatively short career. Coote was a casualty of the Nines, ruled out for six months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. ”I definitely want to get back and play with this bunch of boys,” he said. ”It will be a goal for myself to try and get back.” Coote wasn’t taking out his frustration on the new Nines concept. ”We’ve still got another trial next week and it could have happened then. Footy is a cruel game.” Zac Santo is the early favourite to replace Coote at fullback.

INJURY TOLL PAYED WITHOUT COMPLAINT
INJURIES led to the demise of the World Sevens in 2004, along with poor crowds and declining TV interest. With the return of truncated rugby league to the NRL, casualties made a return as well. Lachlan Coote, Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Curtis Sironen, Jarrod Mullen, Luke Keary, David Stagg, Michael Chee-Kam, David Williams, Ben Barba, George Jennings and others all return to Australia sicker and sorrier. So why is no-one calling for the Nines to be cancelled? Because the clubs are being so handsomely compensated? Because the organisers have spent money courting the media? Because, as Eric Watson says, the clubs no longer dislike each other? Or is it because the often-maligned rugby league media is actually less negative than it was a decade ago? “Everyone here has had a good experience – I think that’s the main reason,” said victorious Cowboys coach Paul Green

SLIPPERY SLOPE
THE decision suspend Melbourne’s Richie Kennar for one nines match in 2015 for his grade four careless high tackle against St George Illawarra is, on the surface, eminently sensible. The game in which he committed an offence was not rugby league as we know it and if he had committed a serious offence, it would have been referred to the judiciary and his ban would have included 13-a-side games. But the precedent is dangerous. The lobby for suspensions meted out in trials and Origin games to only cover those arenas will be emboldened. And what if his hit determined the rest of the final? Would we have been as comfortable seeing him play next weekend?

FREDDIE’S NIGHTMARE
“They were terrible, the refs in our game,” Brad Fittler told an NRL video crew after his comeback on Saturday (the first game, not the one with the intercept). Then there was a grin. The match officials were walking behind Fittler in the the tunnel’s ‘Mixed Zone’. “Can I bag refs? Can I get fined? I’m retiring at the end of the day!” Fittler didn’t play yesterday due to a hamstring injury. Andrew Johns’ comeback in the media match was less successful; he hooked himself for a horrible pass at one stage and the NZ team beat the Aussies 3-2.

FOURTH ESTATE EVICTION
MEDIA types were happy enough Warriors owner Eric Watson took the time to visit the Eden Park media box and dispense some useful quotes. Aside from the comments which appear on page ??, Watson also said the Nines should stay in Auckland forever and reckoned England signing Sam Tomkins was valuable because he would remedy a communication problem at the Warriors. But when the media opp was over, Watson remarked that the view from the press box was so good it should be sold as a corporate suite and the hacks kicked out. Journos might be left wishing he had not paid them a visit. These are hard times for non-rights holding hacks, with social media and leveraged content swamping them.

PUTRID ONE DAY, BEAUTIFUL THE NEXT
BRISBANE endured their worst-ever season last year and North Queensland were dudded by a refereeing error. So while the 45,403 fans at Eden Park yesterday were disappointed at the Warriors missing the final, it was still a feelgood story. Things could have been different, however. South Sydney’s Dylan Walker grouned the ball just outside an upright in the dying moments of the quarter-final against the home side. Had he picked up the lolling ball and put it down inside the woodwork, meaning a five-point try, the game would have been tied and bunnies may have progressed. But the scoring system confused everyone – including scoreboard attendants and journalists.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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