FINALLY! We have refereeing controversy! I was beginning to feel our God-given right to lambaste, chastise and ostracise those poor suckers in fluoro was being denied by the oh-so-perfect Bunker system. Thankfully, equilibrium has been restored and we can, once again, release the hounds.
In an action packed Easter weekend, we were blessed with the resurrection of a Bulldogs outfit, the ordaining of the future QLD number 6, a Raiders team that crucified a 14 point lead, a spirited Saint George team and a player that refuses to play on the Sabbath. OK, I promise – NO MORE RELIGIOUS PUNS. That’s not to mention a Grand Final sequel which doubled as the Grand Final preview, the last of the undefeated teams goes down, the Semi Radradra protestation and the five day turnaround protestations.
I’m all for people devoting themselves to their religious beliefs (within legal boundaries, of course). However, I’m not so sure Bulldogs fans will feel as accommodating to star fullback and dedicated Mormon, Will Hopoate, not being available to play Sunday games on religious grounds. Given that Brett Morris is out for an extended time, Hopoate will also be unavailable for the Dogs’ rounds 10, 11 and 12 clashes. He has been in outstanding form and will be sorely missed. Playing devil’s advocate (I did promise no religious puns didn’t I?), if the Dogs lose all 3 games, I wonder whether the fans are prepared to be as understanding?
I realise I’m in the vast minority, but I’d like to see international players who have played NRL for a minimum of 3 years, qualify for Origin selection. Yes, yes, I know Origin is predicated on pure interstate hatred and the NRL has stated publicly that it doesn’t want to tamper with the Holy Grail (there I go again..) of rugby league, but surely, we can somehow manufacture a “Best of the Best” competition whereby players like Semi Radradra, James Graham, Sam Burgess and Shaun Johnson can be involved in State of Origin without compromising their International status? I’ve never subscribed to “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”. I’d rather think – “there’s always a way to make it better”. If we can’t incorporate international superstars in the origin arena, then have a one off game which pits the best home grown players vs the best international players. That way, all the superstars of our game get the opportunity to play in a mega-game arena and maximise their earning capacity without tarnishing the international competition. I’m prepared to forgo the All-stars and Aukland Nines games (which most high profile players don’t even participate in) and replace it with the Best of the Best game if scheduling is an issue.
Whilst I agree it’s not ideal that some teams only have a five day turnaround between games, we need to bear in mind that this will change next year. Although Manly will play their 3rd game in 10 days this week, they have won their first 2 games. The issue of player welfare as well as teams not being able to prepare adequately can’t be good for the equity and quality of the competition and the NRL should’ve consulted with the RLPA before finalising this years draw.
The Bunker honeymoon looks like it’s well and truly over. Not only are some decision debatable but they’re taking much longer than earlier in the season. I though Matt Gillett’s try was a fair try in the Broncos V Cowboys match and the Thurston no-try should’ve been awarded (I guess that evens it out). The Latrell Mitchell no-try was also the wrong decision when Mitch Aubusson was ruled offside. Why the hec can’t we use “straight line” technology, whereby a straight line is imposed on screen to determine if a player is offside? It can also be used to adjudicate on forward passes for tries only. A similar technology is used in soccer as well as international swimming. Another bugbear of mine, while I’m at it, is – why must the refs be compelled to make a call for every try?? It’s simple – if they (or the touch judge) have a clear view, call it, then by all means, refer to the bunker. If they don’t have a clear view, then refer it to the bunker without a call and let technology make the call. We shouldn’t have the situation of “insufficient evidence to overturn the refs call” in situations where the referee had no solid opinion.
The Bulldogs looked “on” versus an injury plagued Rabbitohs in a game that was over in 30 minutes. Thankfully, the grand final replay between the Broncos v Cowboys was a more palatable spectacle. In fact, it was much, much more than that. It was an absolute thriller of the highest calibre. Anthony Milford proved once and for all that he will be JT’s successor when JT finally hangs his golden boots. Milford’s combination with James Roberts is breathtaking especially when defences start tiring in the middle and fringes of the ruck. The only downside is both teams are littered with Queensland players which spells doom for us poor Blues supporters. The Broncos, courtesy of a Milford monster field goal, got the bikkies in extra time and deservedly so.
What happened to the Raiders?? Up by 20-6 with less than 15 minutes to go they threw the game away conceding turnovers and silly penalties to invite the Titans back into the contest. Dave Shillington was outstanding against his former team (why do players go to another level when they play their former team and not perform at that level consistently?) as was Josh Hodgson (again!) for the Raiders. What about the Frank Paul Nuasala’s brain-snap from the kickoff which lead to the Titans winning try near fulltime? What gets in these players brains? Umm…no need to answer that one.
The Eagles got up in another thriller versus the win-less Roosters, running out eventual winners by 22-20. Blake Ferguson looked Origin bound as the Roosters almost snatched the game via a controversial no-try decision which denied Latrell Mitchell the match winner. Manly did exceptionally well to hold on despite injuries to Jamie Buhrer and Daley Cherry-Evans. Easter Sunday provided yet another thriller as the Josh Dugan lead Dragons managed to edge out a gutsy Panthers side. Unfortunately, it was a Trent Merrin error (against his former team) from a kick off that allowed the Dragons to gain field position and eventually snatch the late victory. The Dragons are still lacking attacking potency apart from Josh Dugan.
The NZ Warriors finally broke their 11 game losing streak courtesy of a much improved second half against the Newcastle Knights. Despite another ridiculous No-Try call, this time to Warriors winger Tuimoala Lolohea, the Warriors finally showed glimpses of their potential with some enterprising attacking play lead by their halves Jeff “Voldemort” Robson and Shaun Johnson. If the Broncos and Cowboys are the best 2 teams in the competition, then surely the Eels are not too far behind. Their defence looks impregnable at the moment as the managed to keep a flamboyant Tigers outfit scoreless, running out eventual winners 8-0. You just know that if the Sharks are involved in an “ugly”, scrappy game of football then they are odds on to win it. And win it they did off the back of a rejuvenated Ben Barba (in both attack and defence) to end the Storm’s perfect start to the season.