Simmons Accuses Refs Of Changing The Rules

Wests Tigers - Royce SimmonsBy STEVE MASCORD

PENRITH great and Wests Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons has accused NRL referees boss Daniel Anderson of changing the rules of rugby league without authorisation in his controversial obstruction interpretation.

The debate over the  edict that any collision with a defender initiated by a decoy runner would result in a disallowed try affected almost every game at the weekend and has just about usurped the ASADA investigation as the game’s number one talking point.

Rugby League Week understands players at one leading club have discussed contacting their rivals over the next week to form a united lobby against the crackdown.

Simmons says: “Generally when you change the rules in the game, you have to go through the International Federation or something to change them.

“To me, it seems like a rule change has been made. Referees, in my opinion, are there to interpret the rules and not make the rules.

“Tries are being rubbed out that haven’t been rubbed out in all the time I’ve been involved in the game, since I was in under sixes.

“Second-man plays have been in the game a long time. I’m not saying it’s going to make the game better or worse or anything but this is fact.

“Some of the calls, I think, have been too far from where the action’s taken place. I’m all for getting it right and I guess we’ve got to go through a procedure where we’re getting it right because it certainly wasn’t right last year.

“But we seem to have gone from one extreme to another.”

Anderson admits the issue is likely to be discussed by the NRL competition committee later this month – but the interpretation will stay at least until then.

He hinted on radio last Sunday that he will give video referees back their discretion when he is confident there are enough ex-players in the box with enough experience in their new roles.

Speaking on the ABC on Sunday, he said referees had “done well” this year but that obstruction represented “the bull in the china shop knocking everything off the shelves”.

He admitted that Cooper Cronk’s disallowed round three touchdown in round three was a “definite try” under the previous interpretation.

“We want the Cooper Cronk try to be allowed – but how do we do that without compromising other components?” he said.

“It cannot change right now … we need a bigger sample (of incidents).”

Anderson said “this is not just my game in my backyard”.

He said criticism from Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart at the weekend didn’t “reflect accurately what has gone on since November last year”.

* NB: video referees were subsequently given permission to award tries, at their discretion, when a collision between a decoy runner and a defender did not obstruct the defence.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE BIG ISSUE: # 37

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

HERE at The Big Issue, we try to leave the on-field, rule-related stuff to fellow columnist Mark Geyer. He played for Australia, after all.

But when it comes to the debate over tries being disallowed due to obstruction rulings, you don’t need to have donned the green and gold to know something is awry.

Let’s use the shoulder charge ban as a base for the logic used in rugby league legislation. The vast majority of these tackles are harmless, but doctors still deemed them so dangerous that they successfully lobbied for their banning.

This ban is now worldwide.

Now, the practise being discouraged in the chalking-off of tries to Cooper Cronk and Brett Morris in round three is decoy runners colliding with defenders.

In the case of Morris, there is some argument Josh McCrone MIGHT have been able to prevent the try had Ben Creagh not run into him. Personally, I think this extremely unlikely.

But are decoy runners colliding with defenders such a scourge on rugby league that we need to eradicate it by denying fair tries, as we are penalising otherwise benign tackles to eradicate shoulder charges?

I would say no. I would say that most fans didn’t even THINK about the practice of decoy runners making contact with defenders until last Thursday night. I can’t recall a defender being hit by a decoy runner ever being seriously hurt (it has probably happened, though)  or doctors calling for an end to the practice.

When the collision is more than 14 metres away from the try, you would expect the likes of Luke Patten, Matt Rodwell and Justin Morgan to argue in favour of awarding the touchdown. There was no ex-player in the video box on Thursday night

But they have 60 seconds to convince the senior video referee to go against what has been presented as a hard-and-fast rule. Good luck.

Craig Bellamy said there was a danger of coaches halting all second-man plays close to the tryline. There is also the danger of defenders learning to fake being hit by a decoy.

It just seems like a rule interpretation for which we need to give the officials back their discretion.

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THERE was something intangibly low-key about the first two weeks of the 2013 NRL season.

The football was good enough, even if some of the crowds were down. But patrolling touchlines, press conferences and dressingrooms, it was apparent to me that something was missing. Proceedings lacked the usual “edge”.

When Super League was in incubation, the footy became incidental. Match reports shrunk, games came and went, and the only two teams anyone really cared about were Packer’s and Murdoch’s.

The rest of the competition receded into the background for a few weeks when Melbourne were stripped for two premierships and had to play for nothing, too.

This year, it was ASADA and the ACC. Rugby league thrives on controversy but the game seems to resent it (and sulk a bit) when the drama is created from outside. It goes into its shell a bit, lamenting lost mojo.

Thankfully at the weekend, we had Billy Slater kicking David Klemmer in the face, Richie Fa’aoso flattening Ashley Harrison and Cooper Cronk plus Brett Morris being robbed of tries.

Not good for Klemmer and Harrison, of course…..

But it was almost as if rugby league was sticking its tongue out to ASADA, with its thumbs in its ears, saying “I’m not washed up as a publicity magnet just yet”.

There will be tough times ahead as the two sources of news battle it out for supremacy. Publicity helps ASADA with its investigations and the various interest groups have all hired spin doctors to selectively leak information.

But after a couple of weeks of moping about, Mr R League has regained his confidence, is walking with a strut and is up for the fight.

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AS predicted, the Thought Police have launched an offensive against people criticising the ASADA Investigation into rugby league, with two writers suggesting at the weekend that anyone who has done so is a sycophant.

I was going to say ‘everyone’s entitled to their opinion’ but there are those who clearly don’t agree with that.

Let me repeat: no-one wants performance-enhancing drugs in rugby league. Does that mean we must support every aspect of an investigation which has already seen players invited for an interview only to be called back and told it was a case of mistaken identity?

No, I don’t believe it does.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

NRL round 23: GOLD COAST 24 PARRAMATTA 16 at Skilled Park

By STEVE MASCORD

DEPARTING Parramatta caretaker coach Brad Arthur last night said the current rule interpretation on obstructions was wrong and warned the issue would cause major dramas during the finals.

Gold Coast was awarded the second contentious try of the weekend under the rule during a 24-16 win at Skilled Park, which also featured a disallowed touchdown which its would-be scorer, FuiFui MoiMoi, claimed was “100 per cent a try”.

The headline grabbing decision to give Canterbury’s Johnathan Wright a try against Wests Tigers after an apparent obstruction on Friday was seized upon when Titan Ashley Harrison ran behind team-mate Luke O’Dwyer in the 59th minute before putting over centre Steve Michaels.

“It’s the same try as Friday night!” Gold Coast captain Scott Prince shouted while video referee Rod Lawrence mulled over a decision. “I didn’t see Friday night,” on-field official Steve Lyons deadpanned, “who played?”

The touchdown was given and Arthur – unwanted by incoming Ricky Stuart next year – said little about the issue at the post-match media conference. But when asked later by the Herald if more teams would run plays that were once illegal as a result of the rulings, he said: “We will be.

“Look, I don’t know if anyone will go down that path but you would hate to see a semi-final decide by that. In a game like today, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make a difference for us.

“But it could make a difference to a semi-final team or a game in the semi-finals.

“Are you allowed to run behind your player and score a try? We definitely need to get an answer of what the ruling is. It’s not just today’s game, it’s every club, right across the game. There needs to be a rule we can all work off.”

Titans coach John Cartwright disagreed with his captain’s on-field statement that the Michaels and Wright tries were “the same”. “I think that one today was totally different … the one the other night was no try,” Cartwright said. “Commonsense says it was no try. I don’t think I’m being biased in saying today was a try.”

Prince said: “I had a view on what an obstruction rule was. The other night with the Doggies-Tigers game, it certainly changed my (opinion).

“It’s more confusing for the punters at home who watch. Now it’s even confusing for the players and coaches.”

There was actually confusion over two rules at the post-match media conference yesterday. Nathan Hindmarsh was unsure of the implications of new guidelines restricting comment about the performances of match officials.

“Does anyone know what the rule is these days …. can I say that?” said Hindmarsh, when asked about the obstruction furore. “I’m allowed to say that? I’m not going to get fined or anything?”

Just a few seconds after Parramatta’s Cheyse Blair went up for a kick that should have brought him a try – until he failed to take the ball cleanly – fullback William Zillman charged only a lovely pass from Matt Srama to score.

Titan Matt White dived on another ball lolling dangerously close to his own tryline in the 26th minute and soon afterwards, prop Nate Myles charged through a yawning gap for his side’s second touchdown. The scoreboard clicked over to 14-0 with a penalty goal and that looked like being the halftime ledger until quick hands put Luke Burt over in the final seconds of the period.

The Eels narrowed the margin to four with Chris Sandow’s try off a MoiMoi pass in the 54th minute – before Michaels touchdown dead-batted their revival. “We definitely had the momentum,” Arthur reflected, “but we made the error to hand them the ball.”

The Titans extended their lead via Kevin Gordon (64 mins) before MoiMoi was ruled to have lost the ball over the line. “The way I was carrying it, it looked like it came out,” MoimOi told the Herald. “But I got it down, it was 100 per cent a try.”

When the next Eels try came  – after great lead-up from Ken Sio to put Taniela Lasalo over – it was far too late.

There was a bizarre start to the second half with the Titans fielding only 12 men – without Ashley Harrison – and defying the referees’ instructions to kick off. “I think Harro was having a dump,” said Prince. “Nah, he  had a toe issue. He was getting his toe strapped.”

Hindmarsh repeated earlier comments about not caring if his career finished with a wooden spoon. Sandow was reported for a high tackle on Zillman.

GOLD COAST 24 (W Zillman N Myles S Michaels K Gordon tries S Prince 4 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 16 (L Burt C Sandow T Lasalo tries L Burt 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Referees: G Sutton/S Lyons. Crowd: 14,159.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Final team lists:

TITANS: William Zillman; Kevin Gordon, Jamal Idris, Steve Michaels, David Mead; Aiden Sezer, Scott Prince; Ashley Harrison, Ben Ridge, Greg Bird, Luke Douglas, Matt Srama, Nate Myles. Res: Matt White, Mark Minichiello, Luke O’Dwyer, Beau Falloon.

PARRAMATTA: Jake Mullaney; Luke Burt, Ryan Morgan, Cheyse Blair, Ken Sio; Ben Roberts, Chris Sandow; Reni Maitua, Justin Horo, Nathan Hindmarsh (c), FuiFui MoiMoi, Nathan Smith, Tim Mannah. Res: Joseph Paulo, Taulima Tautai, Justin Poore, Taniela Lasalo.

Referees: Gerard Sutton/Steve Lyons.

Toyota Cup: Gold Coast 34 Parramatta 32