Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
31 hours ago
For the first time in a long time I am less than comfortable with the way the game is being run - and the way the NRL is running it in particular.
On the surface the game may be in reasonable, if not good, shape, but below the surface there are real concerns which I believe need to be addressed.
Here are just some of them.
The Independent Commission:
The "independent" commission (IC) is supposed to be the greatest innovation in the game since its inception. I believe it is important, and overdue, but we will have to ask a couple of questions about it. And it should not been seen to be all and end all when it takes control.
The first question is one that won't go away - was the selection process the best available? Roy Masters has forensically been looking at the selection process and he has come up with some serious questions that simply have not been adequately answered.
The second question is why won't the IC take control of the game until November? Aren't the issues facing the game urgent?
Can we afford to wait until November - and then the delays caused by the Christmas-New Year break - to get negotiations on the television rights post 2012 even under way? Let alone resolved?
Can we wait any longer to put in place a comprehensive response to the multi-million dollar push by the AFL into Western Sydney and the Gold Coast that hits top gear in 2012?
I don't always agree with Gus Gould - and he can be infuriating at times - but he has been making some telling points about how unprepared we are for the AFL's dollars being spread around junior and grass roots football.
The NRL regularly puts out press statements pointing to rising attendances. That is fine, provided they are based on fact and not fiction.
Rugby league, sadly, has a long history of issuing inflated attendances. Not that long ago the administrators of the day used to be show the "actual" attendance at major games - and then add a few thousand to total before it was given to the media...and put up on the screen.
I worry that we are back there again. Some of the "official" attendances released recently have simply lacked credibility. They must count feet, not bodies.
What is the point of this? Who does it fool? What does it prove?
If a team or three is having problems attracting fans, why hide it, why downplay it?
2.A Consistent Approach to Off Field Issues:
The only person to emerge with enhanced credibility over the continuing saga at the Sydney Roosters is the captain, Braith Anasta. Just was surely done when he won the man of the match award yesterday.
But could the NRL have possibly turned in a worse performance?
The NRL hands out fines to coaches/players/officials like parking tickets for "bringing the game into disrepute" when referees, side line officials, and video referees are criticised.
What should it be handing out to the Roosters, their board and management?
If the Roosters Chairman wants to save Todd Carney then good luck to him.....but does this mean the NRL has to put up with not just days of bad publicity but now weeks? And not once - but half a dozen times over the same player in recent years!
The totally "hands off' approach of the NRL is of real concern. Would the IC, if it was in place, take a different position?
A reasonably tough line was taken with one player at the Roosters after repeated issues. That player was Jake Friend. Touch wood, he has been on the straight and narrow of late - and isn't his football benefiting from it?
There have been times when the NRL has intervened and taken a tough line, but there have been times when it has been missing in action.
We are today seeing the latter. - and that is just ensuring the saga drags on and on!
The Standard of Referees and Other Officials:
I have raised this issue more than once, but it must be raised again.
As we approach what may well be the most even finals series in years, the standard of refereeing is a real problem. Over the weekend I saw any number of really poor calls by referees, and more evidence that "sideline officials" are just about totally useless!
The players deserve better, and the fans deserve better, that we having to put up with.
Again, there is no quick fix, and it is an issue the IC needs to get involved in. But I guess it won't get around to that until 2012.
When you look at the list of issues and challenges facing the game - and my list is hardly exhaustive - surely the IC needs to get involved now, rather than in up to three months time?