Turning a
blind eye?

In the NRL every week there are things that go unnoticed by the mainstream media. Perhaps it is because there are politics involved or perhaps they are simply bad judges. Here are three things that are happening in the NRL right now which have either been glossed over or simply missed or for no apparent reason.

These are all things that I have noticed so I?ll happily admit I could be as poor a judge as almost every Tom, Dick and Harry (& Jane) in the mainstream media seems to be.

? As great a player as Ben Kennedy has been and continues to be every week for Manly, I simply cannot ignore the way he levels a forearm into the head of the player in possession when he is the second man into a tackle. I realise that every NRL player is coached to come in and wrap the ball up and should that effort see your arm end up around the head of that player it will slow the play the ball down; but what Kennedy does is a little different. While the grapple tackle still very much exists in the game today despite the ?crackdown? by referees, players are still copping shots across the head in a remarkably high number of ?regulation tackles? and nothing is being said about it at all.

Kennedy is a tall man and makes a lot of tackles during a match, so I can accept that fatigue becomes a factor in his technique but I cannot accept the fact that he regularly hits players across the melon with his right forearm as he strives to slow the play the ball down.

Now there isn?t a serious amount of malice involved in the way he uses the forearm but almost every time he comes in to wrap the ball up as the second tackler he collects the man in possession with a nice jolt to the head. It is foul play no matter which way you slice it and given he has gone down in a few tackles this year after high shots it seems a bit rich.

That being said these forearms are much less dangerous than straight out head high tackles (and Kennedy has had a few of these this year) but the line in the sand ? as indicated by the NRL this season ? is that any contact with the head will be penalised.

But with Ben Kennedy it seems that the rule does not apply. Having said that Kennedy is hardly the only player to come in over the top like this every week. The game is rife with this tactic and because it is a tough game it will continue to spread through the game down to the junior ranks. My gripe is more to do with the fact the NRL want to have this doctrine about protecting the head yet continually turn a blind eye to stray arms within tackles during almost every set.

? Moving on to another very good football committing another illegal act is Brisbane front rower Petero Civoniceva. In the space of 9 Rounds big Petero has streeted the field in the race for the NRL?s worse play the ball technique. In fact his inability to ever have his foot make contact with the ball whilst ?playing the ball? is so efficient that he has left the NRL?s former king of the incorrect play the ball ? Todd Payten ? back in the starting blocks.

Civoniceva has been the best prop in the game so far this season and rightly deserved his Test spot but for the life of me I cannot fathom how he has avoided being penalised constantly for never making a genuine effort to use his foot when playing the ball. I realise he?s a mountain of a man who charges into the defence 18-20 times a game and that can tire you out, but when his first play the ball and his last play the ball are identical in their disregard for the rule then I feel every right to blow up! Of course Civoniceva is not alone in this but he is by far the worst offender so far this year.

? And finally in a cry of desperation given none of the two above views will be shared by one and all ? I bring forth the topic of referees being ?touched/handled/directed? by players during a game. Now what Scott Hill did (and was suspended for) was going way to far as he forcibly redirected Jason Robinson to turn and face him to discuss a decision, but a disturbing trend has emerged this season in which players are regularly touching the referee to get his attention.

Now if you?ve seen the US comedy series Arrested Development you?d be familiar with the catch cry ?No TOUCHING!? whenever they had a prison scene. Well I?d like to know when did the NRL adopt an ?it is ok to touch the referee just a little bit if you?ve got a fair point to make? policy?

I haven?t seen the directive and I?d be surprised if the any of the referees have seen it either. The fact is even in the Canberra-Parramatta game on the weekend Jason Robinson was again gently touched and questioned over a decision on the run. Now I?ve got no dramas at all with a player or skipper asking about a decision but there is absolutely NO need for the player to lay hands on the referee at any time.

If you allow any touching of any sort or don?t stamp it out when it begins to creep into the game, you are seriously setting the wrong example to future generations of footballers. I don?t think I need to remind anyone of how pathetic and appalling the behaviour of players in the Italian Serie A is when questioning a decision by the referee. They not only have an open policy on touching the referee but it seems you can?t be on a team if you haven?t had the best hand gesture training available to get the referee?s attention. And it seems if that doesn?t work then just grab the referee so he can look directly at you while you unveil your latest hand gesture repertoire.

Now is that too extreme an example?

I hardly think so. What is to say that in 20 years the NRL isn?t full of players who have this skill and are very good at getting what they want because of their ability to intimidate the referee? You cannot say that won?t happen in the game of Rugby League.

I sure hope it doesn?t but wasn?t it only a few years ago that Shayne Hayne sent David Peachey to the sin bin for dissent?

And wasn?t that dissent highlighted by Hayne not liking the way Peachey used his hands?

Now I bring that example up because truth be told the NRL (through Hayne?s admittedly harsh example) sent a clear message then that over aggressive (again Peachey was hard done by) gesturing would result in punishment. In the space of a few years it seems not only are gestures now allowed but you can no touch the referee and not even get cautioned. If it happens in the NRL you can bet your last dollar it will happen in the junior ranks and when those juniors eventually make it to the NRL they?ll bring all the habits they had then into the top grade.

The NRL has to do something about this situation and adopt a publicly stated ?NO TOUCHING? rule once again.

2006 LEAGUE PLAYER RATINGS (Does not include Rep football)

ROUND 9 LEADERBOARD 67 ? Danny Buderus, NEW 67 ? Johnathan Thurston, NQL 65 ? Petero Civoniceva, BRI 65 ? Darren Lockyer, BRI 63 ? Matthew Bowen, NQL 63 ? Craig Smith, NEW

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ROUND 9 LEADERBOARD 67 ? Danny Buderus, NEW 67 ? Johnathan Thurston, NQL 65 ? Petero Civoniceva, BRI 65 ? Darren Lockyer, BRI 63 ? Matthew Bowen, NQL 63 ? Craig Smith, NEW