Game of Groans – Is the NRL losing its appeal?

We all love our great game of rugby league but it needs a facelift. There’s only so much Vaseline you can slap on that screen to cover up the cracks. From the bush to Bondi, the top to bottom, east to west, well just past Dubbo, all I hear is moaning and groaning about the dire state of rugby league.

Crowds aren’t turning up especially in Sydney, ratings are down, players are fuming, coaches are venting and fans are frustrated. The keyboard warriors head the queue and unfortunately most of it is vile bile spat from the behind the hidden cloak of a quirky twitter handle. Aussies love a grumble and are on the podium when it comes to having a whinge, but is it warranted?

What’s wrong with the NRL?

The playing standard is high, their courage is never under question, the skills are out of this world! We’ve just has the best State of Origin since Sterlo had hair but the officials and League Central are letting the game down. Coaches don’t think you’re innocent either, the players pawn’s in their win at all costs game.

The frustration and disillusionment in the air circling around league is tangible. The fans have had enough. Let’s get this season out of the way but there’s issues to be sorted through. Here’s Jock’s top ten. Three-word slogans seem to cut through the crap, here’s mine:

Address the Mess!

1. Apply the rules

Damned if they do, damned if they don’t, referees are everyone’s punching bag. I feel sorry for them. Under pressure to let the game flow they pocket the whistle until the defensive side repeatedly infringes and then blow the pea out of it for the next minute but are loathe to sin bin anyone. They are pressured to keep penalty counts low, as it makes for a supposedly better game, TV and fans love it. No penalties and sides take advantage pushing the envelope (that’s code for cheating bastards). All the players get is a pat on the back from their coach. If referees penalised every indiscretion we’d never get a full set of six in and send social media into meltdown. Again, damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Referees can’t win.

2. Bow to Archer

If the man in the middle awarded 40 penalties a game the refs boss Tony Archer would send him to reserve grade but not before alerting media. Archer is part of the problem, he must stop releasing media statements either backing his referees when he knows they’re in the wrong or leaving them hanging out to dry like last weekend after the Slater slam. Tony Archer has neutered the referees to the point they’re too scared to make the big calls. The referees don’t know whether they’re Arthur or Martha, they’re more confused than a one-legged duck asked to swim in a straight line. Coaches front reporters, usually when the mercury levels haven’t dropped. Why can’t the refs boss be more open and take questions? Tony it’s time – march yourself to the bin! The refs boss needs to get his house in order or walk.

3. The Ruck is Muck

The ruck area needs cleaning up. Players never stand up to play the ball, half don’t use their feet and just roll it lifting their foot, this is okay with the refs as long as they make an effort it’s let go. How about just playing the ball correctly!!! I realise the attacker has just been wrestled by three lowland gorillas slowing the play the ball down so they can reset their defence line. Here’s another idea: stop the wrestling!* It’s a blight on our game. Remember how ordinary Super League was in 1997? It was glorified touch footy, but we cannot have tacklers called to release then given another three seconds without a penalty. Speaking of Super League, the English version only has one referee and it works fine. Two refs haven’t cleaned up the ruck, one would make touch judges actually do something.

4. Touch Judges

What do they do? Honestly a David Jones shop window mannequin could do a better job. They don’t assist the referee other than walk off the field either side of them at fulltime used as human shields protecting the whistle blower from irate fans, captains who they usually ignore anyway and giant koalas holding a bucket asking for a donation for Greenpeace. On a possible try being scored the referee looks to them for expert advice: green or red light? They get back a look like a stunned mullet who’s just seen Angela Merkel skinny dipping at the G20 with Donald Trump and receive a shrug of the shoulders and mumble “go upstairs”. Touchy’s never call forward passes or if they do, like last week when two were called against the Titans at Pepper Stadium, they were wrong, both had gone backwards by a mile. All they seem to do is stick a flag in the air every now and then, they need a jolt from a cattle prod to raise it. Seriously it’s ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ – get involved in the game I dare ya! When was the last time you saw a touchy run in to give a report?!? All they do now is cross the chalk, when someone is tackled a metre from touch, tell the defender to get off then scuttle back to the safety of the ball boys.

5. Markers

Markers standing side by side has become the norm this season and is frustrating hookers and coaches alike. Ricky Stuart has had steam coming out his ears all season over this among other rants which has left his wallet filled with nothing but air and IOU’s to the NRL. He’ll have to use food stamps soon. Dummy halves are restricted in their scoots as they are constantly caught by markers standing next to them, or the hooker has his arm smacked trying to pass the ball by a marker who is standing so close to the dummy half he can pick his deodorant. Josh Hodgson uses Brut by the way. Hookers are forced to step back before passing especially on the line giving defenders that valuable extra second to come off their line and get in the face of the first receiver.

6. Revive the Five

The ten-minute sin bin is too long for one side to be down a player so referees rarely use it. In the modern game sides can run in three tries in that period, or it wears sides down that cruels them for the rest of the match. Bring back the five-minute sin bin please!! Referees would use it more and it may bring an end to the endless run of penalties that usually results in attacking sides giving up and taking the two points, which is what the defensive wants – who wins there? Or instead of a five-minute sin bin, a Power Play where the defender penalised is taken off the field for the next set of six. Let’s make it fun and go old school back to ye olden days. Place them in stocks in front of the opposition fans eg Souths Burrow and let the rotten fruit and veges fly! Legal have said I can’t do that, some mumbo jumbo about abusing human rights and that I can’t call it a Power Play because ice hockey already use that… alright let’s call it a Power Ball, what? Oh, there’s a gambling thing… okay how about the Super Sin Bin or failing that the John Grant Rule, he’d like that.

7. Send Off or Sin Bin

Send off a player if it’s a shocker, that’s a no brainer but again I don’t blame referees for not doing so as if they get it wrong they are plastered from pillar to post. But keep the ten-minute sin bin for not only professional fouls but also use it for a reportable incident. If a player is put on report they should pay a price. This was highlighted when Sia Soliola remained on the field while the Storm lost Billy Slater, yet Cameron Munster was then sin binned, quite correctly for holding down. Munster goes yet Soliola stays on the field, it’s mind boggling. Teams must be penalised more harshly for foul play especially if it’s an attack to the head, whether intended or not.

8. Bunker Bungles

I’m not blaming the referees for not sending off Sia Soliola, Slater slipped which meant Sia smashed his melon instead of his shoulder. The Bunker stuffed up, they had the replays and time to put this issue to bed. They must stop watching replays purely in slo-mo, everything looks worse in slo-mo when if viewed at normal speed we would have seen that the tackle was late and that Soliola had to go. In fact, by-pass the Bunker unless it’s necessary. How many times do we go upstairs for a ruling that everyone can see is a try yet we are subjected to a thousand replays from multiple angles to confirm what we all knew from the initial replay. KFC pay good money for their plugs when the Bunker decision appears on the screen at the game and on our TV’s. Surely, we’re not going upstairs for commercial reasons?

9. Seven-Tackle Re-Start

If there’s an attacking kick from within the quarter that dribbles over the dead ball line, why is the attacking team rewarded with an extra tackle? The rule was brought in to negate kickers just belting the ball dead from 50 yards out to stop speedy fullbacks returning the ball at tired disjointed defensive lines. The seven-tackle rule has stilted inane last tackle kicks and brought in more teams throwing the ball around but they could and should do that anyway as a surprise option. How about if the ball is kicked from within the red zone the seven-tackle rule is not applied? Just throwing it out there…

10. Trash Golden Point

I know I’m old fashioned but what’s wrong with a draw? Does there have to be a winner? TV and the youth can’t handle it but they need to discover some resilience. Build a bridge get over it. Lose by 40 or in Golden Point in glorious HD and you receive the same number of points – nada, nought, zero, zilch! Golden Point is a joke, it is not rugby league. The game turns into a rabble where the rules go out the window, everyone is offside, the refs put the whistle away and the match turns into a bad field goal kicking competition.

I could go on, players releasing the ball conning gullible referees into thinking it was stripped, walking off the mark but not penalised, the NRL scheduling games with no common sense or rugby league nous, the Broncos golden run of Thursday or Friday night games, but it’s time for a chill pill and a nanna nap.

Send all correspondence to:

Todd Greenberg, C/O League Central, Sydney NSW and after careful consideration ie he’ll check his twitter feed for the vibe on social media he’ll place it in the ‘too hard’ tray…

Cheers,

Jock

*unless it’s Cameron Smith, the rules don’t apply to the great man.