NRL 180 – Where the Game needs to change direction

My last journey to the blogosphere left cautious ‘good luck’ wishes to NRL CEO David Smith’s management restructure, while imparting some advice to get the core principles right, and to remember that the long run is a series of short runs.

Bumbling fiascos like City-Country cannot occur along the way, lest you muddy the true path to excellence with side roads and detours.

But then I got to thinking. A seven siloed management structure sure looks pretty, and could well work, so I’m prepared to wait and see on that score. But what is the direction for the game?

None of the assembled media thought to ask Greenberg at last week’s announcement (or since) to outline his vision for the game, and how he would take us there. That is a major oversight, and I for one would have truly liked to have heard him (or Smith) identify where he saw issues that needed addressing, and how he intended to approach fixing them.

Surely they’re not making this all up until he plants his size 10s under the desk in August? Greg Inglis will have been dumped on his head another 454 times by then.

Examples of core principles (amongst many) requiring attention are the standard of refereeing and the judiciary.

Paul Kent (who I enjoy reading and listening to) was quite wrong on the standard of refereeing on NRL 360 last week. They are atrocious, and the NRL needs to do a complete 180 on this issue. If it’s not blatant forward passes, it is inconsistency, both of which are turning games given the high standard of competition, and not to mention the unclear place for the video referee in general play.

We then have the situation (to name but one) on Friday night where the game’s most marquee player is spear tackled twice by the same person, Richie Fa’aoso. The very same person who blindsided a player with an illegal shoulder charge just weeks ago, caused a severe concussion, and yet was allowed by an insipid judiciary easily distracted by big words and shiny objects to downgrade the charge.

The first spear tackle was bad enough. The second was a clear send-off offence.

Referee’s boss Daniel Anderson, who tried unsuccessfully to hold off the criticism surrounding his awful obstruction rule, then proceeded to defend his referees. Well he’s wrong again.

Have they forgotten Krisnan Inu’s spear tackle on Inglis for which he received a five week suspension and the media storm surrounding it? Are they incapable of learning? Do they not recognise the unnecessary danger of paraplegia or quadriplegia, or just severe head injury?

And it all happened the same week as suspended referee Gerard Sutton, who miraculously missed Danny Buderus’ jaw-breaking shoulder charge in round 3, returned. Oh, the irony.

Here’s a freebie to the NRL – give Richie a yellow card (plus the report) for the spear tackle if you don’t send him off. The second yellow card for the second spear tackle is a red card, and then it’s good night Irene. Or, you could just do your job and send him off.

It is elegantly simple.

Another (major) issue to ponder is that head contact is head contact. Whatever its source. Contact with the ground from a spear tackle would qualify just as nicely as a stiff arm or shoulder charge. As I have written before, this will go very ‘legal’ if the NRL continues to avoid its duty of care.

And the confounding thing about all of it is that it is so easy to fix.

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