Off the Wall

A couple of issues have arisen this weekend that really deserve comment - or action.

I can hardly complain about Phil Rothfield in the Telegraph firing up Blues fans - his Brisbane counterparts do exactly the same with Maroons fans.

But his attack today on Mal Meninga really was a bit below the belt. The accusation that Mal Meninga is basically no more than the cheer leader, or motivator, in the Maroons camp really does take the "firing up" too far.

I know Mal well, but I have zero direct knowledge of what happens in Origin camps and training, but the Mal I know is a thorough student of the game - and his relationship with his players right throughout the year is extraordinary and personal.

Comparing his club coaching record fifteen years ago or so with his Maroons record over the last five or six years is unfair. There are any number of coaches who have had bad runs at one level, or one club, and done well elsewhere.

And Mal has won five series in a row - yet he has had two different assistant coaches in that time.

I don't mind some of what Phil writes - he is not afraid to shake the tree - but yesterday's stuff really is a bit over the top, or under the belt.

But when it comes to "below the knee", the NRL needs to act urgently to ban a dangerous, and unsportsmanlike ploy that is escalating in the game - and is sooner or later going to seriously damage, if not end, the career of players.

The tactic of a third player coming in and hammering an opponent around or below the knees while he is being tacked high, or help up, by two other players is absolutely alarming.

I have seen several this weekend - and when they are fully effected they are frightening.

Andrew Johns wants action now - and the clubs must do so as well.

If an attacking player is being held up by two opponents, and a third opponent chares into his knees or ankles before the referee calls "held", the potential for serious damage is evident.

It needs to be eliminated by the NRL now.

Speaking of illegal tackles, three or four of the game's best players, notably Johnathan Thurston and Benji Marshall, are repeatedly being hit in tackles after they have passed the ball, or kicked it, that are increasingly border line, if not late.

Daly Cherry-Evans the rising halfback with the Sea Eagles has become a target as well.

If the referees can't see it - and with two on the field they should be able to - then surely the "sideline officials" should be able to?

Or is that really asking too much?

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