NRL finals news 2022, Paul Gallen column

Let me start with a confession. Laying down to get a penalty is something I’ve done myself, so I’m in no way critical of the players who are doing it now.

The NRL is a professional sport and that means it’s win at all costs every time the players step onto the field. I don’t blame anyone for doing it.

But what we saw over the weekend was nothing short of embarrassing. 

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It’s been heading in this direction for years, and it’s not what the game is about, it’s not what this game was built on.

It’s a terrible look. It’s not good. And somehow the NRL has to stamp it out.

The game’s done this to itself by increasing the reliance on the video. Everything these days in life is about technology. If you’re not at home, you can watch the game on your phone. Technology is everywhere. As soon as there’s a controversial call we get a stack of replays of the incident.

It’s not the fault of the players or the coaches, but it’s a horrible, and fundamental shift in the way the game is played.

Clearly we can’t just ignore the technology, but we’ve got to limit the impact it’s having on the game. Lets just restrict the video to try scoring situations only, and back the referees the rest of the time.

Let them officiate the game.

I’m open to any solution that removes this blight on our game. The first thing that comes to mind is if the on-field officials don’t see anything wrong, then it’s play on.

No more going to the Bunker and having 37 looks at an incident from every angle and in slow motion.

Tensions boil after third sin-bin

That’s the job of the match review committee. If someone has done something that deserves punishment, they’ll get charged.

I’m not an advocate of the two referees on the field, but maybe we need the second referee there, not to get involved in the officiating of the match, but to monitor the ruck, which is where the majority of infringements happen.

It’s not an ideal solution, but having that extra pair of eyes might mean we can stop this dreadful look for the game. It’s disgraceful.

If that means the occasional incident goes unpunished on the field, I can live with that. Referees aren’t perfect. But the player is then punished by the MRC.

There were seven players sent to the sin bin on Sunday, but I don’t think officials lost control of the match. If you look at each one in isolation, the way the rules are these days, you could say each was justified.

But that’s exactly why the players lay down. Every single sin bin on Sunday can be justified, and players know if they lay down they’ll get a penalty at worst, and if they’re lucky an opposition player will get 10 in the bin.

Let’s take that away from the players. If the match officials don’t see it, players have to get up.

If they stay down because they’re genuinely hurt, that’s fine. Move the play the ball five metres to one side, and take the injured player off the field for an HIA.

Roosters enforcer binned after brutal hit

You watch how many players stop laying down if they have to go for a mandatory HIA.

I saw the question being put to Trent Robinson after the match about whether or not his players were laying down. It was a fair question, it wasn’t singling out any one individual, it was a general question about the game.

From the way Trent reacted it seems pretty clear the Roosters are told not to lay down. But what happened on Sunday, and on Saturday night, was a bad look for the game.

What you also have to remember is that a lot of the shots on Sunday were accidental. You’ve got 100kg guys running at each other at top speed, if the ball carrier drops two or three feet at the last moment you’ve got no time to react. You’re never going to stop an accidental forearm to the head in a situation like that.

But that’s not foul play. That’s an accident. People need to understand how fast a situation like that develops.

Regardless of how the problem is fixed, it’s very clear to me that something needs to change.

Latrell burns Roosters with slick try

It’s been two big weeks for both Souths and the Roosters. I said last week that I couldn’t believe they didn’t rest more players in round 25, and that turned out to be the Roosters’ downfall. They didn’t play the long game. It was an error from both clubs, but the Roosters have paid the price.

To get up for two weeks in a row like that is a massive effort. These aren’t normal games. There’s genuine hatred between the two clubs. Emotionally, it was a huge ask.

There was one other big takeaway from the opening week of the finals. We’ve been wondering for ages who can beat Penrith, and after the weekend I don’t know that anybody can. They’re so good.

I convinced myself last week that Parramatta would win, and then on Wednesday I had to put my tips in for Wide World of Sports, and thought better of it. Nathan Cleary is a genius, he trains so hard, I couldn’t go against him.

Lucky I did, because it was the only match out of the four that I got right! I lost the Sharks, Storm and Roosters. Thank god I changed to Penrith and avoided the duck!

The Cowboys have the massive advantage of a preliminary final in Townsville, but week one of the finals only served to reinforce how far ahead of everyone the Panthers are.

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