Because my blogging discipline rivals the Roosters on a good night, the Round 24 Rubdown will be an assortment of mini-blogs. Unfortunately we begin with refereeing – again – despite Todd Greenberg’s exhortations to focus on the football. But how can we, really?
A penalty for your thoughts
Geoff Toovey is absolutely correct when he insists an investigation should be made into the poor quality of refereeing this year. In fact, I would make it a full Gitmo-style interrogation and body search combined with a Mogatu-like brainwashing, starting with the rules sung to the tune of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ … Heck, they can even use my Primer! I wouldn’t rule out physical torture and police dogs, but if any of them show a liking to it, then we’ll have to pull out the big guns and subject them to Celine Dion for 24 hours to really break them down. If that doesn’t do it, there’s always Andre Rieu, or AM talkback radio.
One of the most troubling aspects of refereeing is the inconsistent and ill-defined role the video referee plays. Sometimes he pipes up in the on-field referee’s ear, sometimes he doesn’t. And when he does, the decision is often incorrect.
Just look at some of the blunders when it’s a try-scoring situation. The video referee makes Mr Magoo look like a specialist long-range sniper. If the video referees aren’t in a hot tub with el cheapo champers and groupies shooting a rap video rather than watching the game, then there’s no excuse for some of the errors made. If they are, well, I’ll cut ‘em slack.
Last night there were penalties for non-strips, and knock-ons ruled for actual strips. There was also a fair try disallowed that would have seen a 26-18 scoreline with the Roosters coming home like a steam train (there was a special session convened on this exact example at the beginning of the year). Alas, the wrong decision was made, and the game petered out with air of predictability far too early when a grandstand finish beckoned. The game never had a chance with Klein and ‘Crazy Joe’ Perenara.
At issue here is referees (field and video) simply forgetting what the rules are. Whether it’s last night’s faux obstruction, or a player putting their hand over the touchline when getting up to play the ball (which is actually not out, but for which Parramatta were penalised this year), there appears to be no comprehension of what they are doing. With all the focus on shoulder charges this weekend, it’s really, really hard to keep an eye on spear tackles and players lifted past horizontal as they were last night …
Ex-refs boss Bill Harrigan called them on it collectively a week or so back, and you can see what happened. Stung by the criticism, referees then began a knee jerk-athon (pardon the pun) effort to ‘back themselves’, even when it was inappropriate to do so. For example, I saw what appeared to be a fair try to the Titans’ Kevin Gordon near full time which wasn’t even referred to the man in the hot tub, despite the naked eye (and replay … and hot tub!) having ‘try’ written all over it.
Before JWH was sent off in Round 9, I had made mention that ‘some poor sod’ is going to sent off as a reaction to the hue and cry over Greg Inglis being repeatedly spear tackled (he’s top heavy, you know …) without so much as a sin bin.
You can’t make this up, but you can read ‘em like a book.
I wish I had access to the data for the graphic produced on the Sterlo show last week. If you didn’t see it, it pinpointed the positions on the field where the most heavily penalised team in the competition, the Roosters, had given away their penalties. It was captivating (if you’re a ‘leaguie’) because it highlighted the trend of the opposition being given ‘piggy back penalties’. There weren’t many on their own line, interestingly, which means they have been severely disadvantaged by either ill-discipline, design, planet alignment, whatever.
I’d like to see the graphic of penalties ‘conceded’. In fact, I’d like to see it for every team. Can Fox NRL make that happen?
In lieu of such resources which tell a very compelling story, I have dived into penalty counts to see who’s who, and who gets what. Sure, it doesn’t tell you where on the field the penalties occur, but it does tell a story of sorts:
The Sharks are coming 5th on the ladder after last night’s impressive win, so you might imagine they’ve won a few penalty counts. They’ve won or equalled 17 out of 22 – or 77%.
Or, if you’re the ABC, perhaps you think it’s an anomaly and they should be 2nd last with a performance like that. If you are that way inclined, then take a look at 2nd place – the Dragons, who actually are 2nd last on the ladder – have won or equalled 16 out of 22 penalty counts (73%). They must be building some pretty heavy duty pressure on the opposition.
It’s odd to me, if not the ABC, that the Roosters have won or equalled just 5 out of 22 penalty counts (less than 23%). I just don’t think they are anywhere near that bad (or worse than other teams).
Two other Top 4 teams (Manly and Rabbitohs) have almost squared the penalty count ledger at 45% and have suffered no real disadvantage (abstracting from where the penalties occur, and when), while the Storm have prevailed 68% of the time (15 out of 22).
High Fiving the Storm
Speaking of the Storm, I’ve never had much interest in the term ‘Big 3’ because I have such high regard for Ryan Hoffman’s defensive work and attacking thrust on the left edge in particular. I’ve always considered it a Big 4, as much an homage to the awesome caravan park chain as to his Hoffman’s magnificent contributions.
But there’s a new kid on the block, complete with a new set of Burgess-enhanced testicles – Will’s Chamber … er, Will Chambers. Given the focus on his genitalia, much like the Burgess’ infatuation with their own, perhaps the number five has more resonance than at first I even appreciated. He could be a lost Burgess brother!
In any case, his form has been nothing short of scintillating. He’s big, fast, and more elusive than Christopher Skase at midnight in a shop full of oxygen tanks. Watching him this year has just been breathtaking viewing.
Storm For & Against from Round 20
Just in case you hadn’t noticed all the other Storm-positive news (the Dr didn’t miss them), check out what’s happened to their For & Against. From Round 20, they moved from Top 4 laggard at +80, to 2nd at +235. That’s some rate of change!
Another way of looking at it is to say they’ve won by almost 40 points on average in their last four matches. Looking over the shoulder – much? Clearly they’ll hold down the play the ball and their hands will ‘become one’ with the ball in defence (like Sam Burgess … or Yoda), but whatever, they’re the team to beat.
Is your team a 1st or 2nd half specialist?
The scale of the Storm’s wins of late, along with the noticeable and lacklustre starts by the Roosters, meant that I felt compelled to dig into the data.
Now, I like to do the actual data and stats justice, and make sensible claims. I’m not the ABC, in other words. For that reason, I can look at the chart below, see Parramatta being a first half specialist, and say, who really cares? They don’r score many points anyway, so we can put their percentages down to the the law of small numbers! We all know they’ve thrown in the tea towel in the 2nd half faster than Tony Montana.
As we close in on the finals, contenders such as the Broncos (until last week), Titans (as if) and Panthers have been fast starters. Clearly thery’ve been devouring the pre-match caffeine-laden goo with more gusto than most. The Sharkies and Manly have also been quick out of the blocks.
How strange it is to see the Roosters, Storm and Rabbitohs taking up the last four spots, followed by the Bulldogs. I’d love to see the ABC’s take on this, but it’s a strange development.
Is it perhaps a tapering tool? That is, does a more relaxed preparation avoid a fast start and help to keep a team from peaking too early? It’s a legitimate question, even if it is off base. I can see how it prepares teams for an arm wrestle and to revert to game plan early enough to really take control of a game. Maybe it’s just the old adage that you beat a team in the first 60 minutes, the points come later?
Draw Strength and the Knights potentially slipping out of the 8
One of many jokes circulating following Greg Norman’s capitulation in the 1996 Masters went along the lines:
How do you find water in a desert?
Give Greg Norman a nine iron and a golf ball.
Now, that’s not to disparage the Shark, who is a golfing god, and there’s a plaque on the fairway at The Australian to mark where he hit a 3-wood over water to albatross a Par 5 to prove it. Like most plebs, I doubt I’ll see it because the bottom 99% are generally barred, but let’s move on and draw the analogy with a fading Knights. See how I got golf, draw and fade in there? That’s class. The Petaluma truly is my muse, and this blog is becoming more enjoyable as I go along.
BUT … are the Knights the 1996 Shark? I mean, how can you possibly miss the Top 8 from a more comfortable position than a video ref’s hot tub? They’ve had the easiest draw over the closing six rounds of all contenders, culminating in a Broncos/Eels finish, yet are at severe risk of missing out.
The strength of draw concept was outlined in an earlier blog, suffice it to say that a value of 2.5 for the Knights means that, over the final two rounds, they are playing a team that is, on average, somewhere between the quality of the Dragons and Tigers, who are 2nd and 3rd last. As it stands, they’re actually playing the two teams either side of that. These clowns are no certainty for the finals, even with that draw, and could potentially miss them altogether if the Warriors and Cowboys win their last two matches! Can you believe it?