BONDI BEAT: April 2016

By STEVE MASCORDRLW April 2016

THE clubs may not like it but do we now have enough English players in the NRL to revive a mid-season Test?

There is absolutely no reason why the Kiwis should not play while Origin is on, aside from the fact clubs would declare war if they had to stand down their New Zealanders along with their Maroons and Blues.

Even without the stand-down, though, the Test could be played on a Friday in the May split round.

The problem in the past has been opposition. But there is now enough Englishmen to need only a handful of others to take the long flight Down Under.

Of course, there is ideological issue of handing out England shirts to people who may not have earned it yet.

But as colleague Brad Walter pointed out to me after we watched Sam Burgess’ competitive return in round one, you could have a Great Britain selection that includes Ireland’s Tyrone McCarthy and any number of Scotland ‘heritage players’ such as Kane Linnett and Lachlan Coote.

What do you think?

WHAT about ‘The Bunker’, then?

Firstly, it looks like nothing so much as Mission Control at Cape Canaveral. It’s a real shame Chris Houston has left for Super League as I’d love to hear them say “we have a problem, Houston”.

I am someone who is extremely cynical about adding more apparatuses to officiating when you are always going to get human error.

But having said all that, I like what I’ve seen so far. It’s an improvement. And it puts the NRL even further ahead of Super League.

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MANY readers will be of the opinion that sport’s borders are set in stone and expansionary efforts by rugby league are bound to fail.

Upon my return to Oz, I saw a convincing rebuttal of that argument in the UFC. Walking to Allianz Stadum for South Sydney-Sydney Roosters, I overheard a lad being told he was looking forward to having a few friends around for a fight from Las Vegas.

No mention of the 108-year-old derby taking place up the road.

In the UK, darts provide us with an example of a sport that can grow its market share and cultural relevance.

Sadly we don’t seem to have a united strategy at all – or if we do, we don’t have the resources to even consider putting it into practice.

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IN Australia there is a thing in television sports coverage called “fair use provisions”.

This means that any website or television station can post highlights from any sporting event, whether on not they have the rights.

So while the BBC, for instance, will have still photos of soccer matches they do not have rights to, in Oz they would be allowed by law to show video from those games.

That’s why Australian newspapers declined accreditation for the last rugby union World Cup – because the IRB wanted them to sign away those rights. So the reporters just bought tickets and interviewed players at their hotels.

World Cup ebay
What it means in a practical sense for rugby league is that when Chris Sandow kicked that amazing drop goal against Salford, the footage was all over Aussie sites within hours.

One suspects Super League would prefer the fair use provisions were introduced in the UK – the one-pointer on the hooter was a great advert for our game.

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It’s probably the best rugby league story in the world and it’s going unwritten.

Belgian officials brought some Brussels City Council officials to the World Club Challenge on February 21 and they were so impressed with the sport that are going to sink further resources into promoting it.

Where?

In Molenbeek, a hive of extremist activity and a place where police centred their manhunt after the Paris attacks.

Rugby league has a wonderful record in underprivileged areas of channelling aggression more positively.

I’m hoping to visit Brussels this year to chase up this story.

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THE round one NRL clash between Wests Tigers and the Warriors was dubbed the Ivan Cleary Cup by one cynic – because he’d be coaching whoever lost.

True to their form in recent seasons, it was the Aucklanders who fell a long way behind. Fought back, but still lost.

Cleary may not have a steady coaching income at the moment but he’s holding the whip hand when it comes to his future employment prospects.

It wouldn’t surprise if Hull KR sounded him out after sacking Chris Chester; even if Cleary went back to the NRL next year he could probably do some good things in East Hull in 2016.

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WHILE Super League continues with one referee, Down Under we have two in a competition which is planned to be scrapped!

Two referees are in use for televised Under 20s matches and all finals. In round one, because there was only one of these, they threw two whistlers at the Sydney Roosters-South Sydney Holden Cup match, just for practice.

amazonYet this is the last year of the National Youth Competition, which revert to state-based league next year. The NRL still has enough referees to field two in the matches.

Now when we compare this to England … well, lets start with televised under 20s matches and work backwards from there.

And the editor had the hide to ask for 500 words on the biggest differences between rugby league in Australia and in the UK. I could have written 50,000.

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GREG Inglis walked out of the dressing room at Allianz Stadium in round one with his eye on the prize – the fading sunlight at the end of the tunnel.

GI had already done a media conference and studiously avoided meeting the eyes of any of the waiting media.

Then a young Channel Nine reporter stopped him and directly requested a chat. He stopped, considered the request and eventually agreed.

donate2During those moments when he was giving serious thought to denying the cub reporter, I’d like to think he was considering his Queensland and Australian team-mate Jonathan Thurston.

Thurston has set such a high standard of accessibility over the past 12 months that he has almost shamed his colleagues into arresting the sad decline in co-operation with the media throughout the NRL.

He’s even allowed himself to be photographed at home and while in the UK recently did everything of which he was asked – and more.

JT knows that being in Townsville doesn’t help him when it comes to maintaining his profile and that he needs to go an extra yard to ensure his maximises his post-career employment prospects.

Throw in his game-day interaction with kids and he’s setting a high standard for everyone else.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

If You Could Change One Rule In Rugby League, What Would It Be?

By STEVE MASCORD

“THAT’s a REALLY good question,” says James Graham, late one Friday night after Canterbury match at Homebush.

“It’s a tough one. What have people been saying? Um, yeah, I don’t want to waste this. What about ‘no rules’? Huh! Just go out and play. Do whatever. No rules at all.

“Nah, I’ll thinking of something. Get back to me.”

Rule changes are the issue du jour in rugby league, with many people up in arms – no pun intended – about the recent shoulder charge ban.

Should any rule interpretations change mid-season? Should the players have a say? We asked a host of NRL and Super League stars what rules they hated, and what changes they would make if they could.

We never did get the British Bulldog’s answer. Ask hif if you see him around.

Please note that most of this survey was done before the shoulder charge blitz. Tell us which rule you’d change by Tweeting and including @Leagueweek and #myrulechange.

Now, over to the stars….

TERRY CAMPESE (Hull KR)

Campo reckons just touching the ball in a tackle does not make the Campese, Terrydefender guilty of being a dirty stripper.

“The strip,” he answered quickly when we put our query to him. “Some of them, you’re in contact where you’re trying to wrap it up and you touch it and they call it a strip. They’ve got to put more onus on the guy carrying the ball. “

This was an issue when David Shillington was recently sent off for a headbutt in his 200th game. He had dropped the ball. Rival Robbie Farah admitted he had a hand on it the tackle, arguing that Shillington is “a compulsive offloadeer” and should expect nothing less.

JARROD CROKER (Canberra)

Ball stealing and consistency

What gives “Toots” the poo-poos during a football game? “Most Jarrod Crokerthings give me the shits, mate. Ball stripping … I’ve seen them go to the scrum, looking at the big screen and blow a penalty. So, there’s a bit of inconsistency there. That’s only me saying that as well, because it cost us some momentum. I don’t watch a heap of footy. Just a bit of consistency all-round. There’s been a bit of talk of the captain’s challenge. I’ll admit I’m probably not a fan of that. It just slows the game down too much I reckon. The obstruction one still gets thrown around a lot. It’s not so much the rules, it’s consistency.” We hear you, brother.

Halatau, DeneDENE HALATAU (Wests Tigers)

Diving

The NRL were backed into a corner earlier this season by a spate of players staying on the ground, bringing in the video referee and giving their team-mates a spell. Now, the video referee can only intervene over a high tackle if the incident is likely to result in a judiciary charge. Diving has taken a dive but old hand Dene Halatau reckons it’s still an issue.

“Staying on the ground, yeah,” he says. “You don’t want it to turn into soccer, eh? You don’t like seeing someone get hit illegally but if they bounce back up you also feel like they’re doing something tough by getting up. They’re not trying to milk a penalty. But if someone is injured, you don’t want them to getup unnecessarily.”

ETHAN LOWE (North Queensland)

Number of referees

ONE referee was a big hit with NRL fans during the representative Lowe, Etthanweekend this year – but that doesn’t mean it’s coming back. Some players, however, would like it to.

“I get a bit annoyed with the two referee thing. One is telling you to move, the other one is telling you you’ve got more time. That’s a bit frustrating. You don’t know who to listen to. But it’s up to people above me to make those sorts of decisions. “

It certainly is – and they’re sticking with two.

EORL CRABTREE (Huddersfield)

Crabtree, EorlInconsistency

It’s pretty clear what ticks off Big Eorl during a rugby league game – refs in general.

“Interpretation is a weird word, isn’t it, in terms of it all being up the referee. Sometimes they make decisions that are unbelievable, mind-boggling. I don’t think those decisions are … it’s just a case of consistency. I don’t know how you can get (inconsistency) out of the game. It’s human nature. Humans make mistakes. It’s just the way it is.”

advertise hereGARETH ELLIS (Hull)

Ellis, GarethThe play-the ball

Gaz Ellis is an old school rugby league man. His pet peeve is based on principles and etiquette.

“You know what really gripes me? People not playing the ball properly. That’s what defines our game, between rugby league and rugby union – the play-the-ball. So it’s a skill we should learn properly. I don’t mind if there’s an attempt but if it’s just thrown back, it gets on my nerves a little bit.”

MICHAEL LICHAA (Canterbury)

Seven tackles

LIchha, MichaelOher players are less idealistic in the rules they would change. They want live to be made a little easier for them – and having to tackle for longer after kicking the ball dead is not, in any way, Michael Lichaa’s cup of tea.

“Seven tackles – it’s a killer – when the ball goes dead. Sometimes it just goes dead and they get seven. I think the people who made that rule up aren’t out there playing it because it’s already fast enough. When you’ve got the ball and you get the seven tackles, it’s nice. But … the rule’s gonna be there but it sucks when you’ve got to run back there and D up.”

JAKE MARKETO (St George Illawarra)

Play-the-ball and offside

Marketo, JakeAnd then there are the men who would use their magic wand to stop the refs penalising them. Just their team, do what you like to the rest….

“The play-the-ball is the most annoying. People do that every game., If you pinged on one of those things, it’s a bit rare. I mean, I hate when we get penalised for off-side, late in in a set. You’ve busted your backside for four or five tackles and then that happens coming out of yardage. That’s hard to cop. You can’t change that one. You’ve just got to play by the rules I suppose.”

JASON NIGHTINGALE (St George Illawarra)

Captain’s Call

Likewise, the Dragons winger wants a captain’s challenge – but only

St George Illawarra - Jason Nightingale 2

when he is captain.

“When I’m captain, I’d like a captain’s challenge. When I see the 20s do it, I get jealous. I always thing I’m right! I would have got Dylan Farrell a try when we played the Roosters. I’d put in a captain’s challenge … just for selfish reasons. It’s me thinking I know everything and wanting to try and change the ref’s decision. I try and argue but I don’t have power in that area yet.”

Filed for RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Four Nations: NEW ZEALAND 14 SAMOA 12 at Toll Stadium, Whangarei

Parish, MattBy STEVE MASCORD

FURIOUS coach Matt Parish claimed Samoa had been treated “like second class citizens” after another agonising late defeat at the Four Nations.

A 75th minute try by centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall saved the Kiwis from suffering the first loss by a top-three country in the history of the tournament – but Parish was fuming over the decision to appoint New Zealander Henry Perenara as referee.

Asked what stuck out in his mind about an epic contest played in front of 16,912 fans at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium, Parish replied: “The 6-2 penalty count in the second half.

“Last week there were three video refereeing decisions that went against us and cost us 14 points. Today, we led all but the end and got penalised 6-2 in the second half in a tough game.

“Who was the video ref last week?” he asked journalists. It was Perenara.

Parish continued: “I’ve got a whole team of shattered blokes down there. What do you say to them? Do you think they could do any more than they did out there today?

“Mate, we get treated like second class citizens. It’s about time they took a bit of notice.”

Earlier, long serving Test referee and World Cup match officials board member Stuart Cummins said the decision to appoint Perenara to a New Zealand game and Aussie Gerard Sutton to Sunday’s Anglo-Australian Test in Melbourne meant international football had “gone backwards”.

Asked if he would like to have seen a referee from a neutral country, Parish said: “That’s an understatement.

 amazon“Ben Roberts does a kick …. Adam Blair was taking kickers out left, right and centre all day … (Frank Pritchard) pushes him, they come back and give a penalty. That’s a game changer.

“We were up 12-6 then, with 20 minutes to go. Mose Masoe’s clearly got a chicken wing – play on. Tim Simona, they get him in a headlock. Play on.

“I told these blokes, ‘if they touch our kickers, don’t cop it’.”

Pritchard admitted he was giving Perenara “constantly, too much of a spray. If I think the call is wrong, I’m definitely going to stand up and give it to him.”

Controversy aside, the Four Nations delivered its best game despite the Samoans being 7-1 outsiders. On Saturday’s evidence, New Zealand v Samoa could one day be the Pacific’s answer to State of Origin.

Fans engaged in chanting wars between singing and dancing at the natural amphitheatre in bright sunshine as Samoa scored first through winger Tautai Moga after three minutes.

By halftime, the Samoans led 8-6. After the break, centre Joey Leilua – probably the man of the match – used a giant fend on Kenny-Dowall to extend the lead to 12-6.

Centre Tim Lafai had no luck with his three conversion attempts. It’s the second week in a row Samoa have scored as many tries as their opposition only to be beaten by goal-kicking.

Two passages of play stand out from the second half.

The first was when NZ’s Issac Luke was ankle-tapped after making a break but managed to off-load. The Kiwis kept the ball alive from touchline to touchline before forcing a line dropout, with winger Jason Nightingale scoring off the next set.

donate2The other was a forced pass by Samoa half Ben Roberts with six minutes to go, which resulted in a turnover that gave the Kiwis possession for Kenny-Dowall’s clincher in the corner.

Kiwis captain Simon Mannering used the word complacency in a fulltime interview, later saying his side tried to play too fancily. Coach Stephen Kearney admitted attitude may have been wanting.

“If you want to call that getting out of jail, you can,” said Kearney said. “Early, late – does it matter?

“It’s a Test match win and we’re very pleased downstairs to be celebrating a Test match win.’

There was a minutes silence before kick-off for young Warriors Luke Tipene, who was killed in a violent brawl in Auckland on Friday night.

A new trophy was awarded at fulltime, perhaps intended to be rugby league’s equivalent of the Americas Cup.

The Peter Leitch Trophy will be on offer to Pacific countries visiting New Zealand. On Saturday’s evidence, it won’t stay in the Shakey Isles for long.

NEW ZEALAND 14 (Keiran Foran, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny Dowall tries; Shaun Johnson goal) beat SAMOA 12 (Tautai Moga, Daniel Vidot, Joey Leilua tries) at Toll Stadium, Whangarei. Referee: Henry Perenara (New Zealand). Crowd: 16,912.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

THE JOY OF SIX: Pre-Season II

KoukashBy STEVE MASCORD

EARL GREY OVER DANK NEWS
EXILED footballer Sandor Earl was not best pleased to read on the Sun-Herald that controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank has a job with the women’s Indian Premier League Twenty20 Cricket Competition. “Unbelieveable – I can’t even play park footy. Flanno (suspended Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan) can’t watch footy and Dank gets a new job,” Earl Tweeted, presumably from Thailand. Flanagan, of course, is under investigation for attending a Cronulla trial while banned for his involvement in the club’s supplements programme. Earl, 24, remains the only player yet issued with an infraction notice. ASADA revealed last week it had concluded its investigations into the supplements issue. Dank, who denies any wrongdoing, insists he is yet to be interviewed. If he is still on staff at Hull KR, it isn’t helping much; Rovers were lapped 30-10 by Castleford on Friday night.

I DID IT HIS WAY
THE truth is out: Sam Burgess WAS inspired by Sonny Bill Williams in his decision to change codes. Burgess has steadfastly refused to talk about the motivation behind his switch; although despite suggestions he has been affronted by the coverage of the news, he is talking football with journalists and TV inquisitors again. His supporters reckoned the suggestion his decision he was influenced by the man he will face next Thursday at ANZ Stadium is nothing but scurillous gossip. But here’s what the Bath rugby union coach (and former South Queensland Crushers half) Mike Ford said on BBC Radio Manchester’s Rugby League Extra programme. “I think he’s seen what Sonny Bill Williams has done, switching from one code to the other and how successful he was, playing in New Zealand in the World Cup in 2011. He boxed as well, Sonny Bill. That’s the challenge he wants. Sam, once he makes his mind up he wants something, he more or less gets it every time.” Burgess has every opportunity to reject the associated speculation he wants to fight Sonny Bill. Over to you, Sam.

OOMPA LOOMPAS UNITE!
THE latest weapon being prepared to fight the financial might of the NRL was first devised by Roald Dahl half a century ago. Feisty racing magnate and Salford owner Marwan Koukash has called for Super League clubs to each be given a “golden ticket”, ala Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, to sign players outside the salary cap. “If a club does not want to use its golden ticket, I will buy it off them for 200,000 pounds,” Koukash told Sky before watching his Reds humbled 38-0 by St Helens on Thursday night. The marquee player concept was voted down last week but will probably return to the agenda of Super League clubs. Koukash is causing such a stir in England that it’s understood RFL chiefs are conducting an exhaustive search for an Everlasting Gobstopper. (photo: Dr Kockrash Twitter)

POACHERS WELCOME
PAPUA New Guinea’s new team in Queensland’s InTrust Super Cup has a message for NRL scouts: please steal our players. And Manly may be about to take the advice; Joy Of Six‘s sources at Dolphin Oval during the historic 24-18 win over Redcliffe yesterday tell us forward Mark Mexico is on the verge of signing with the Sea Eagles. Another World Cup Kumul, Wellington Albert, is already on Penrith’s books. “That’s why we have entered a team in this competition,” PNGRL chairman Sandis Tsaka said. “NRL scouts don’t come to PNG, we wanted to put our players in a competition where they will be seen. If one player leaves, we have 15,000 kids who will want to take his place.” Stand-outs for the Hunters included lock Sebastian Pandia and lock Wartovo Puara.

REFS ON FILM
A FEW weeks after the video referees was heard explaining his decisions on television coverage of the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, the NRL introduced a version of the system for the finals. Instead of appearing live as they deliberated (as happens in England), however, our officials got the decision out of the way and then gave a short explanation. Since then, the English have lifted the bar again for the local boys by showing the video referees on camera as they toggle the vision before ruling yey or nay. This necessitates spiffy suits and turtlenecks for the likes of Ian Smith and Phil Bentham. It didn’t stop St Helens winger Mark Percival being denied a fair try in the 38-0 win over Salford on Thursday. Will the NRL follow …. suit?

IT’S A GAS
HAVING got off to a winning start on Sunday, PNG Hunters coach Michael Marum says Australian teams are set for a culturally enriching experience when they visit Kopoko for their away matches. “Back at home, there will probably be a few gas guns outside chasing people away who are trying to get in,” he said enthusiastically. “That’s the way we play the game up there; people are passionate about the game.” Hunters players have spent 11 weeks in a police camp preparing for the Intrust Cup; many have not seen their families in this time. Mal Meninga is Kumuls nationa coach elect; Tsaka says he is trying to organise a Test against the winner of the Samoa-Fiji Test at Penrith in May and another against one of the teams warming up for the Four Nations.

Bonus item: RADIO NO-RAHRAH
WILL we soon have a 24-hour-a-day rugby league radio station? The emerging internet radio industry is awash with speciallist stations and Sydneysider Alby Talarico -the man behind the Coogee Dolphins – has spent a pretty penny setting up a footy frequency at his Steele Sports site. He already broadcasts for six hours on a Saturday afternoon during the season (he’ll be at Belmore Sports Ground next week for NSWRL fixtures), boasts decent audiences and has plans to further expland, offering airtime to the many league podcasts already being churned out by independent broadcasters. He reckons a full day of footy isn’t far away. Full disclosure time: he has even offered to air my hokey production when I get around to doing one.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

DISCORD 2013: Edition 21

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

FROM all accounts, referees Shayne Hayne and Matt Cecchin and their touch judges Steve Carrall and Nick Beashall were the subject of intense and sustained abuse as the left AAMI Park at halftime in Monday’s Melbourne Manly game.

One witness I spoke to was completely taken aback by the aggression of the crowd members around the tunnel.

But the match officials are entitled to feel better over the couple of days since because, to the greatest degree than I can ever recall, members of the public have jumped to their defence.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey has, instead, copped it on social media for speaking out against their performances and saying the 10 10 draw was not a fair result.

It’s a strange state of affairs which may just indicate the pantomime villain status Manly holds with many league fans.

But it strikes me as odd that rugby league supporters want coaches gagged and the NRL to step up punishments for “bringing the game into disrepute”. I can only assume these supporters would still be of that opinion if their own team seemed hard done by and their coach expressed the thoughts they shared themselves.

In which case, when you don’t want opinions similar to your own aired …. WTF?

During my career, I have covered periods of the game where sports editors have banned leading match reports on the criticism of referees because it had just become too repetitive.

At these times, I have thought this an unfair impediment to the freedom of speech but really, this is the only fair sanction against coaches who cry wolf too often. That is, that their comments are no longer reported because they are genuinely unnewsworthy.

We’re not quite at that point yet this season. Maybe we’re getting close.

I can understand the NRL wanting to keep the game out of the courts by policing libellous comments but aside from that, to try to gag anyone from public comment is to travel down a dangerous path. Rugby league was born out of rebellion and Australia is an anti establishment culture.

Having a bit of a whinge is consistent with all that and I have spoken to referees who appreciate it as part of the theatre of the NRL.

I was at Monday’s game, of course, and I didn’t regard Toovey’s comments as having been over the top. He even smiled and joked in between making that aside about seeing things from fifty metres away on Triple M.

It’s also fair to say both coaches had reason to complain in a tough game. Melbourne may have won the penalty count but the goal that edged Manly ahead for a ball steal against George Rose was doubtful.

There were calls on charge downs, hands on the ball and time outs which were contentious. The referees stood together in the defensive line at times. Defences seemed offside at others.

Tight game, big calls and a lot at stake. You might say that it spoiled your breakfast the next day to read about the comments after such a great contest. Sorry about that.

As I said, complaining about refs will soon become unewsworthy. Maybe it should lose its news value with some coaches before others.

But let’s not make it the crime of the century.

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WHEN I asked on Twitter what people wanted to read about in this column, there were many helpful suggestions.

One, from former NRL star John Cross, was: “how about why if you have nothing to hide wouldn’t you want to help insure the sport you play was clean and drug free ??”

To the people who wanted to read about “monorails” and “marbles” … maybe next week.

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COMMENTS time and since I seem to be doing more and more for Fairfax Media, I’ve decided to go through everything you’ve said at the bottom of any story since the last week’s Discord.

read on

Stuart Still Fuming Over Standard Of Refereeing

NSW - Ricky StuartBy STEVE MASCORD

DEFIANT Ricky Stuart says he hasn’t changed his mind on the standard of refereeing since being fined $10,000 for his famous Skilled Park rant a month ago.

The Parramatta coach was furious over a number of calls in Saturday night’s 19-18 win over Brisbane, not least the decision to send Eels replacement Mitchell Allgood to the sin bin after he copped two direct blows to the head by rival Josh McGuire.

Stuart says the frustration he expressed on April 14 is now widespread

“I’ve got to say, from what I said on the Gold Coast, my opinion has not changed,” Stuart tells Rugby League Week.

“I’ve got to be careful why I say but Daniel Anderson and his referees have not got any better.

“You get Mitchell Allgood who is punched twice in the head – I don’t know anyone who would cop that and wouldn’t defend themselves. How does he get sent to the sin bin?

“It’s not just me – many other coaches are getting very frustrated at things that are happening out there … frustrated and confused.

“They fined me but I haven’t changed my mind at all.”

Stuart’s use of the word “unfair” and contention that clubs lower down the competition table were treated differently resulted in a sanction for bringing the game into disrepute. It was found that he was accusing match officials of pre-judging teams, which is an attack on their integrity.

But the Rugby League Week poll found that most players agreed with Stuart. Asked “do lesser clubs cop a rough deal from refs?”, 54 per cent answered yes.

“What do we do about it? I’m stuffed if I know. It’s not my job,” Stuart said.

Another winning coach on the weekend, Gold Coast’s John Cartwright, was furious with the match officials.

While St George Illawarra coach Steve Price identified three distinct calls which went against his men in the 15-14 loss, Cartwright was so furious at a disallowed try to fullback William Zillman that the coaches box couldn’t contain his anger.

Cartwright roared: “We could have lost today’s game – and ‘the Titans are struggling again’. Bullshit!

”I was that ropeable, I couldn’t talk. I had to get out of that box I was ropeable – and I still am now, as you can probably tell.

”It would have been a tragedy if we lost that game, it just wouldn’t have been right.”

Like Stuart, Cartwright contended his team was from “a small club” and that refereeing errors are not highlighted as much as they are for glamour teams.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2013: Edition 20

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

ON Saturday afternoon in sunny Huddersfield, the locals’ Joe Wardle put one or two on the chin of Leeds’ Carl Ablett and was sent off.

Wardle was subsequently banned for two matches after entering an early guilty plea. It was the first dismissal of his career. A few hours earlier at Parramatta Stadium, Brisbane’s Josh McGuire put a couple on the chin of Eel Mitchell Allgood and was given a spell in the sin bin.

McGuire also entered an early guilty plea and escaped suspension.

On Monday, Sydney Roosters’ Jared Waerea-Hargreaves tackled Manly’s George Rose high and was sent off. Jared also entered an early guilty plea – and was suspended for five matches.

The purpose of this is not to provide another tiresome comparison between the way the rules are enforced in Super League and the NRL – although my contention on the BackChat show back in February about the disciplinary system in Australia being tougher is certainly looking very misguided now.

My point here is about sendings-off.

We seem to have completely separated the link that has always existed between dismissals and suspensions.

In the old days, when Jim Comans reigned, if you got sent off on a Sunday and then escaped a ban on a Monday night, you were lucky. If you didn’t get sent off but copped a long suspension, it was accepted that the referee stuffed up.

Today, we have the crazy situation of a player being suspended for five weeks and people still arguing he should not have been sent off! HELLO?

If you commit an act of foul play that results in you missing next week’s game, I would submit you deserve to miss the rest of this week’s too. The only exception to that rule of thumb would be if it is carryover points from a bad record that gets you suspended – referees can’t and shouldn’t take into account whether you’re a bad boy or a cleanskin.

Video reviews, reporting and citing have clouded the use of the simple logic that guided refereeing since 1895. Dirty play – off!

We have to go back to the notion that if a bloke coat-hangers, spears, elbows or punches someone severely enough to get a suspension of two or more weeks, then he should be sent off. And if he isn’t, the match officials stuffed up.

Forget all this malarkey about the “huge disadvantage of playing one man short in the modern game”. Do you think it was ever easy?

If I was a parent watching both competitions at the weekend, I would not be as worried about my kid playing in England as I would be in Australia.

To suggest someone deserves a marathon suspension after the event but did not deserve to be dismissed is complete and utter nonsense.

PS: Peter Sterling and Bill Harrigan had an interesting debate on Triple M last Monday about whether referees should do “homework” on teams and players.

Sterlo said this was prejudging – the sort of thing you get fined $10,000 for if you allege referees do. Harrigan argued it was just being thorough and professional.

I certainly hope referees’ “homework” didn’t contribute to Mitchell Allgood being sent to the sin bin for headbutting McGuire in the fist. Just sayin’….

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COMMENTS time and they come from a variety of sources.

From last week’s column on the leaguehq.com.au site, Trent suggested that if players don’t make the Australian team and have heritage associated with another World Cup nation, they should be able to represent that nation. That’s pretty much how it works Trent, though with a few technical caveats.

Iambunny called for NRL and Super League players to be paid the same for Test appearances, regardless of the nation. That’s something this column has called for in the past. But the NRL has to foot the bill. Check out this story for an example of what can happen if things aren’t thought through properly: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10883837

read on

FIVE METRE GAP: Round Eight

Hamish NealLike the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round eight.

 With more video referee controversy this weekend (see Slater, Billy and Graham, Wade), transparency from officials continues to be a hot topic. Former player and now designated ex-player video referee official Matthew Rodwell was on Sky Sports Radio on Monday outlining the reason for the decision related to the Billy Slater try against the Raiders in the Storm’s loss to Canberra. It’s fantastic to have this level of transparency but it needs to be consistent. If Rodwell is prepared to outline a reason for a decision that is terrific and that’s fine for fans of Melbourne and Canberra but what about fans from other matches who want controversial points explained from the on-field referees. Transparency in great but consistent transparency is better.

All the talk about Souths’ great start to the season has seen the majority of the focus on backs Greg Inglis and Nathan Merritt but the work-rate of 80 minute player Sam Burgess has been exceptional. Burgess reeled off 39 tackles plus 18 runs in the 24-20 victory over Brisbane on Friday evening for Michael Maguire’s men. The workhorse lock is similar in vein Tohu Harris and also Ryan Hinchcliffe in such a role at Maguire’s former side, the Storm, but they are lock in number only, acting as a third prop ala Paul Gallen.

Will injuries be more of an equalising factor leading up to the Origin period? Traditionally we have seen sides like Melbourne and Brisbane ‘gutted’ with withdrawals over the eight weeks or so of the series. Those sides and others have lost players for part of the time or had them more ‘banged up’ than usual coming off three days between games. But season 2013 is shaping as one in which sides likes the Dragons and Tigers lose maybe one or two players in this time, not the four or five of the Storm or Broncos,  but are already depleted by terrible injury tolls. Both sides have been affected by injuries (particularly strike players in their backlines) to a level not normally seen. Wests, especially, have lost almost an entire backline worth of talent.

Just when people were thinking the top eight was set before the start of May, round eight threw up some unexpected results. The wins for the Raiders and Bulldogs suggested a run of victories is possible for those sides and given they won’t be that decimated by Origin selections to the extent some others sides will, it will make for an interesting period for two of last years’s top eight sides.

Away from the NRL, news from Tasmania is that a further side has been added to their state-wide rugby league competition with the North West Coast Titans added to the mix next season. Good luck to the Titans club.

Elliott Unhappy With Crucial Calls

Matthew ElliottBy STEVE MASCORD

Matthew Elliott became the latest coach to blast referees before admitting the Warriors would have to win 11 of their remaining 17 games to make the finals.

Speaking after his side’s thrilling 28-18 loss to Melbourne at AAMI Park, Elliott said the NRL referees department had admitted to three crucial errors in the round six loss to Canberra and predicted they would be forced to admit to two further gaffes on Anzac night.

Elliott said the Aucklanders, who have just one win so far this season, were wrongly denied a 40-20 kick late in the contest and there was a forward pass in the lead-up to Will Chambers’ epic 72nd minute clincher.

“The similarity between that game and Canberra will be that refs will have to put their hands up for making errors,” said Elliott after a sprawling contest in front of 25,480 fans.

“They did it at the back end of the Canberra game, in their report, where there were three calls that went against us that were incorrect.

“In their second last try (tonight), from where I was sitting, it looked like it was not a little bit forward but a long way forward

“I’ve seen the 40-20 call made on whether the kicker was behind or in front of the line – I haven’t seen the 40-20 call made about where the ball went out. They moved where the touch judge signalled it.

”How often have you heard me whinging about refs?

“We’ll be over the ditch, it won’t matter.”
Asked if the refereeing difficulties were peculiar to the Warriors, Elliott answered: “Ask the referees boss (Daniel Anderson) . He’s an ex-Warriors coach. Ask him how he felt about it.

“The formula for us is that there’s 17 games to go and I think we’ve got to win 11 of them. It’s a big ask in the NRL but I know this group of people are capable of it.”

Storm coach Craig Bellamy – who said there “could have been” a forward pass before Chambers’ second try – was unhappy with his charges at halftime.

“There’s been better sprays,” he said of his halftime address, “but I just thought we needed to get back to what we do best.

“There were a couple of things we just had to get better at. They were strong words but they needed saying.”

Captain Cameron Smith agreed, saying: “That first half, it was unlike us”

While Elliott backed the decision for Shaun Johnson to boot a 68th minute penalty goal for an 18-16 lead, Smith said his men often decided not to do so in similar situations.

“Thankfully, in the end, they took the two because if it had been six it would have been a totally different ball game,” said Smith.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD