Three send-offs and 14 sin bins show the NRL is broken after a Magic Round dominated by a backlash against the crackdown on foul play and high tackles.
NRL coaches over the weekend showed overwhelming concern with the last-minute high shot rule interpretation changes that resulted in carnage across the three days at Suncorp stadium.
On Friday, the Broncos were reduced to 11 men at one point.
On Saturday, coaches Ricky Stuart and Trent Barrett blew up about the impact the rule shift had on their game.
Cowboy Lachlan Burr was sent to the bin for a controversial high shot where Roosters star James Tedesco fell into the tackle from waist height.
Those incidents were just a taste of the headaches unleashed by the Australian Rugby League Commission when boss Peter V’landys announced an immediate crackdown on foul play just days before the start of Round 10.
Coaches were given just days to adjust to the new rule interpretation. Clearly, many teams failed to adjust enough.
The players certainly didn’t.
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Still Tupouniua of the Roosters is sent to the sin bin.Source:Getty Images
While V’landys has repeatedly spoken out in recent days to declare the game will charge through with its new policing of the rules, there is going to be ongoing drama until players can eventually adjust to the violently different way the game will be policed for the rest of the year.
Across the weekend, it has emerged that just four of the 12 NRL coaches spoke out publicly in support of the crackdown and the way it has been introduced.
V’landys said last week the support of senior coaches Wayne Bennett and Trent Robinson had re-affirmed his commitment to the crackdown – but Bennett appears to best represent the reaction from coaches when he both supported its introduction, but slammed the unintended consequences that crept into the contest over the weekend.
While nearly all coaches spoke out publicly to support the concept of better protecting players from foul play — the overwhelming majority claim the way the NRL has gone about it has been bungled. The only coaches to actively show full support for the crackdown were Broncos mentor Kevin Walters and Robinson (Roosters). Ivan Cleary (Penrith) and Brad Arthur (Parramatta) did not address the issue directly in their press conferences while Nathan Brown (Warriors) and Michael Maguire were non-committal in their responses, saying it is simply up to teams to adjust.
The rest were unhappy.
Here are brief responses from the NRL’s coaches:
Michael Maguire (Wests Tigers) – Said in press conference teams simply have to deal with the adjustment. Did not offer a direct opinion on crackdown.
Adam O’Brien (Newcastle) – “At the end of the day, don’t tackle high, you’re not going to the bin,” he said after the game. He also said of his players Tex Hoy and Lachlan Fitzgibbon being sent to the sin bin: “I don’t think that’s the answer”, branding the sin-binning of his players “really harsh”.
Des Hasler (Manly) – Said in his press conference it was “more the timing” of the introduction he had an issue with.
Referee Gerard Sutton sends a player to the Sin Bin.Source:Supplied
Kevin Walters (Broncos) – “We were all aware of that (crackdown). Everybody got a handout.”
Trent Barrett (Bulldogs) – Said the weekend was “a bit of a lottery” with the referees. “Occasionally there will be contact there, nobody goes out to do it. It’ll turn into a game of Oztag, if that’s what they want and that’s the concern for us. You keep changing the rules, who knows where it’ll end up.”
Ricky Stuart (Raiders) – “Jesus, we’ve got a game that’s quite unique, but it’s not a game for everyone – it’s a tough, brutal contact sport.”
Josh Hannay (Sharks) – “It is getting pretty confusing how games are being stopped mid-sequence just to come back two or three plays. At the moment, it sort of stunting a pretty good product with this stop-start mentality the game has got at the moment.”
Wayne Bennett (Rabbitohs) – Publicly supported the protection of players, but slammed how the crackdown slowed the game down.
“I’m a bit worried about it, I’m getting confused, they talk about a fast open game and that’s not what we’re doing,” Bennett said. “I’ve been on this for a long time about the head stuff. I’m totally supportive of that. But I’m not supportive of the game letting it go on for a minute after it and we all stop the game and go through the video and then we put somebody on report and we kick a penalty.
Wayne Bennett has slammed the slow down aspect of the crackdown.Source:FOX SPORTS
“You’ve got to understand that the game relies on momentum. For the game to be attractive, it has to have momentum and every time you stop the game, you break the momentum.”
Trent Robinson (Roosters) – “We need to get better at (not) hitting players in the head. It’s been a bit over the top. But it will recalibrate after this weekend because there has been such an uproar about it. We also need to recalibrate our height of our tackle.”
Todd Payten (Cowboys) – “I feel sorry for the players, we’ve tried to speed the game up and now we are penalising players with a faster game, under fatigue they find themselves in vulnerable positions,” he said.
“I feel sorry for the referees because they’re the ones under pressure to make those calls. I really feel sorry for our supporters across the game – this is probably the biggest weekend in our calendar throughout the season and everyone’s spending hard-earned money to turn up, and we’ve taken away from our game of rugby league in the end.”
Nathan Brown (Warriors) – Said it was up to teams to adjust to the rules without offering an opinion on the crackdown.
Brad Arthur (Eels) – Did not publicly address the rule changes.
Craig Bellamy (Storm) – “I can understand what the NRL is trying to do. There are some things that are a little bit inconsistent but we’ve got to jump on board with it and hopefully the growing pains will go away pretty quickly,” Bellamy said. “You were still going to be penalised for hitting someone around the head before this weekend. It is just that they are making a bigger point of it and the penalties are more severe.”
Anthony Griffin – Was angry about Josh McGuire being sent to the sin bin. “With the mood they’re in at the moment, that’s what’s happening,” he said. “The McGuire one, on Addo-Carr, I don’t understand that one. We don’t coach him to do that. He doesn’t know what a hip drop is. You’ve got to be able to tackle someone and the legs will sometimes get tangled up. I want to get some clarification on that.”
Justin Holbrook – Said it was simply up to his team to adjust to the rules without offering an opinion on the crackdown. Admitted Herman Ese’ese deserved to be sent off for his tackle on Brian To’o. “We were the last game, we had all the time in the world to get our own house in order,” Holbrook said. “It’s a completely reckless decision on his behalf – and we paid the price for it. He definitely didn’t mean it. For me it wasn’t direct contact but it was definitely high and reckless. But we had all weekend to look at it and spoke about it as a team. I don’t think he would have an answer (on why he did it) either.”
Ivan Cleary – Did not publicly address the crackdown.
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