In a blitzkrieg to start season 2018, on-field officials have clamped down on illegal play from sides giving away offside and ruck penalties instead of letting the game flow. Certain sides have benefited from the ploy in recent years. Now referees are burning teams with repeat offences seeing plenty of players sent to the sin-bin in the early rounds.
Some media types, including Phil Rothfield, Phil Gould and Andrew Johns, have publically criticised the NRL and the referees.
Most though believe it is exactly what the game needs and certain coaches will be forced to remove the tactic from their bag of tricks.
But this all shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.
We were all told about it in 2017 and it didn’t come from CEO Todd Greenberg directly. The decision was led by the Competition Committee which includes Greg Inglis, Darren Lockyer, John Lang, Jason King, Tony Archer, Wayne Pearce, Greenberg and wait for it… TWO coaches in Ivan Cleary and Paul Green.
“The committee, which comprises some of the leading figures in the game, was told that referees sent 43 players to the sin bin in 2017 – more than double the figure of 17 in 2016,” the NRL said back in December.
Referees were specifically looking for: “Repeated goal line infringements aimed at slowing down the play. Deliberate and dangerous foul plan incidents. Referees would also be urged to be more vigilant in penalising players for failing to make an attempt to use their foot in the play the ball.
“The committee agreed that action was needed to stop the growing trend of teams giving away deliberate penalties on their own goal line to slow down the play.
“In 2017, 18 per cent of penalties were given in the 0-10 metre zone – despite only 10 per cent of play-the-balls being made in this area.”
Why the outrage?
We’ve known this was coming for months.
Some coaches seem to think that the referees will eventually give up and allow them to keep manipulating the fabric of the game to their advantage.
“I’ve asked the referees to make sure that it doesn’t just happen in Round 1 and 2 and 3, that it happens all year because ultimately it will make sure that the fans have a much greater game to watch,” Greenberg told Triple M.
That can only be a good thing.