Comment: Fine mess for coaches telling the truth in the NRL

It’s hard to comprehend a direction by the NRL which basically says coaches should tell a lie before bagging a ref, writes Dean Ritchie.

Rugby league, a sport where mediocrity is approved; a sport where the innocent are publicly punished while those that flounder secure protection.

A sport where the frustrated coach of a team clearly robbed of victory is banned from his democratic right to condemn those that made the mistakes.

A sport where the governing body – rather than admit their mistakes – claim such comments from a coach are “not the level of professionalism we expect in rugby league”.

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Maybe we should ask whether the officiating we witnessed last weekend was at a “level of professionalism we expect in rugby league”.

Manly was issued a $25,000 breach notice on Friday after coach Des Hasler had the temerity to denounce match official decisions that cost his side a win against Parramatta last week.

So let’s be crystal clear here.

Manly coach Des Hasler was found to have breached NRL rules with his comments about match officials. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images
Manly coach Des Hasler was found to have breached NRL rules with his comments about match officials. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images

The NRL – rather than censure a referee or bunker official for substandard performances – decides to chastise the coach who copped the raw deal. Try to comprehend a direction which basically says you should tell a lie before bagging a ref.

Apparently the NRL has admitted to Manly that several offside rulings were incorrect. And the NRL match review committee failed to charge winger Christian Tuipulotu for the same match-defining high shot the bunker felt was a penalty. Yet they still hammer Hasler.

The NRL wants coaches to be honest but then castigate them when they are. Coaches are forced to attend post-match media conferences but forbidden from being truthful.

Don’t front the media and you’re fined. Front the media and have a dig at a ref and guess what? You’re also fined. In other words, coaches can only discuss what is inside the NRL’s ‘be-nice’ perimeters around referees.

Isn’t this open to a legal challenge?

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said: “We look to those in leadership positions in the game to set an example.”

Those coaches are trying to set an example based around honesty and truth but are being denied that right.

Fans want coaches to be passionate. They want raw emotion, the same emotion the NRL wants from its players, sponsors and stakeholders. We want to see coaches hurting after a loss.

Coaches should unite and threaten to withdraw from post-game press conferences until they can talk with candour and freedom.

Manly was dudded against Parramatta. I’m not a Manly fan. Never have been, never will be. But it would be reassuring for the NRL to admit a team was diddled, condemn the match officials and apologise to the Sea Eagles. Not going to happen.

I wish we all had that luxury of committing a foul-up but avoiding criticism. Welcome to the NRL where you get fined for telling the truth.

NRL issues huge fine to Manly over ref comments

-Brent Read and David Riccio

Manly have been fined $25,000 by the NRL for criticism of the match officials by coach Des Hasler and forward Josh Aloiai following their loss last weekend.

The NRL handed down the sanctions on Friday, having determined that the comments were in breach of NRL rules.

The Sea Eagles have five days to respond to the breach notice.

Hasler was critical of the officiating in the press conference following his side’s narrow defeat to Parramatta and then backed up the next day (see below) with further comments in the weekend newspapers.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo says there is no excuse for criticism off match officials. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo says there is no excuse for criticism off match officials. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

His players then weighed in on Tuesday – Aloiai was the most critical as claimed that the Sea Eagles were hard done by and the referee had done them no favours.

“I think he did a bad job and we didn’t get away with the win,” Aloiai said.

“So I’m pretty unhappy with him, to be honest with you.”

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said there was no place in the game for any public comments of that nature.

“The comments by a coach of Des’s standing were disappointing,” Abdo said.

“Particularly disappointing was the sustained criticism of Match Officials over the course of the week.

“We look to those in leadership positions in the game to set an example. We understand that passions run high, but that is simply no excuse to make comments which question the integrity and competence of our officials.

“Public criticism of this nature makes it harder to recruit and retain match officials at all levels of the game.

“To see not only a coach, but a player, criticise officials to this extent is not the level of professionalism we expect in rugby league.”

Interim Manly chief executive Gary Wolman said there was never any intention to question the officials’ integrity and the club would contact the NRL to discuss the matter.

“Referees have a tough job and they should be supported by all stake holders in the game,’’ Wolman said.

“At no time did the club intend to question the integrity of Ben Cummins or any other match official and will reach out to the relevant authorities to mediate any concerns.”

PVL says Hasler was out of order

Peter V’landys has blasted “out of order” Manly coach Des Hasler for questioning the integrity of a match official.

The Manly club was sanctioned by the NRL following comments made by both Hasler and Sea Eagles forward Josh Aloai which were directed at referee Ben Cummins.

Hasler claimed Cummins “legged up” Parramatta in Manly’s round 11 loss.

Aloai doubled-down several days later saying: “The ref did us no favours, particularly in the back end of the game. I think he did a bad job and we didn’t get away with the win. So I’m pretty unhappy with him, to be honest with you.”

The ARLC chairman took Hasler’s comments to task on Sydney radio on Friday morning.

“Des Hasler is a great bloke and a fantastic human being, but he was out of order last week in criticising the referee’s integrity,” V’landys told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

“He should not do that. That referee (Cummins) has a family. He’s got self-esteem, he’s got his mental wellbeing, you don’t just go and attack someone’s integrity like that.

Des Hasler is facing a fine and further sanctions. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
Des Hasler is facing a fine and further sanctions. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

“I know it’s a passionate game and it’s a tribal game and we all have banter about the referees, but this is what causes referees at junior games to be abused by parents.

“Because they see someone of the standing of Des Hasler having a crack at a referee, when you shouldn’t be – you just cop it.

“In sport, you get the rub of the green.

“One week you get the decision that goes against you, the next week it goes with you.

“You just accept it. It’s a game that makes us all feel good.

“’Don’t bring someone’s self-esteem like a referee down just like we shouldn’t do anyone in the community.’’

Hasler set to pay heavy price for ref rant

-Brent Read

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has appealed for more respect to be shown to match officials as head office prepares to sanction Manly over disparaging attacks on the referees by coach Des Hasler and his players.

Abdo confirmed he was reviewing Hasler’s criticism of the officiating in his side’s loss to Parramatta on Friday night – the Sea Eagles boss took aim immediately after the game and then again on Saturday and Sunday as he stewed over his side’s defeat.

That review has now been broadened following comments by some of Manly players on Tuesday as they continued to simmer after Friday night’s loss. Prop Josh Aloiai was the most critical as he claimed the Sea Eagles were hard done by, the refs did them no favours and he was unhappy with their performance.

At least captain Daly Cherry-Evans resisted adding fuel to the fire – he refused to blame the referees and acknowledged some of the penalties were self-inflicted.

That appears unlikely to save Manly as the NRL prepares to hand down a verdict on the comments of Hasler and Aloiai as early as Wednesday. A heavy fine appears a fait accompli.

Abdo declined to speak specifically about the Manly coach on Tuesday as he launched Indigenous Round but he urged coaches and players to lead by example and show more respect for the match officials.

Manly winger Christian Tuipulotu was penalised for this high shot on Parramatta’s Hayze Perham at a critical point in the Sea Eagles' loss to the Eels on Saturday. Fox League
Manly winger Christian Tuipulotu was penalised for this high shot on Parramatta’s Hayze Perham at a critical point in the Sea Eagles' loss to the Eels on Saturday. Fox League

“His comments are under review so I won’t talk specifically about his comments,” Abdo said.

“I’ll talk generally. It’s important for us all as a sport to strive to hit the standards of professionalism we want, on and off the field, and the way we behave.

“Respect for match officials and referees is important, not just at the NRL level … we all have a job to do to recognise, respect and acknowledge the difficult job the match officials do.

“They do a good job. They make mistakes from time to time, that’s normal, it’s a professional sport, there are a lot of 50/50 calls that could go either way.”

Hasler was scathing about the penalty count against his side in the loss to the Eels and questioned a penalty against Christian Tuipulotu for a try-saving tackle on Hayze Perham late in the match.

Abdo acknowledged there would always be debate but said it needed to stay within the realms of respect.

“Our fans are passionate, there will always be debate in any sport, but this concept of thinking referees are deliberately making mistakes, or not heavily scrutinised following the match on an independent basis, is not true,” Abdo said.

“Everyone needs to take a bit of a breath and show respect for what is a very difficult job. I think we all need to move towards being more respectful and more professional generally.

“They (Coaches and players) set the example for what happens across fields across Australia at a mass level.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo at the Indigenous Round launch. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo at the Indigenous Round launch. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

“There will be decisions that go against you, I understand how much is at stake and the passion everyone has for winning. But I think everyone needs to accept there are things that we do say and can say, and there are things we don’t say.”

Abdo also dismissed suggestions the bunker needed to be blown up after some contentious calls at the weekend, the most hotly debated the decision to award a Brisbane Broncos try on Thursday night when it appeared to be an obstruction.

Those calls prompted some players and commentators to suggest the bunker needed to be scaled back.

“There’s not a professional sport in the world that doesn’t use technology to assist in getting the balance right between accuracy and continuity,” Abdo said.

“You strive for more accuracy with the trade-off being continuity and how long it takes to review a decision.

“On-field referee has two sets of eyes and is looking in one direction. The bunker used 360 degrees and the benefit of multiple camera angles, which results in a much better position.”

Hasler launches second attack on bunker

– Dean Ritchie

Manly coach Des Hasler has doubled down on his criticism of the NRL bunker, questioning why Penrith’s Dylan Edwards wasn’t penalised on Saturday night for what he viewed as a similar try-saving tackle to that of Sea Eagles winger Christian Tuipulotu on Parramatta’s Hayze Perham.

Hasler again condemned the bunker after watching Panthers fullback Edwards crash tackle the Sydney Roosters’ Joseph Suaalii into touch during a match at the SCG.

Hasler remains angry after claiming his Sea Eagles were robbed of victory against Parramatta on Friday night due a late penalty against his side after a bunker ruling.

Tuipulotu was penalised for a high shot on Parramatta winger Hayze Perham in the dying moments, the Eels scoring a matchwinning try moments later.

The penalty came through bunker intervention despite Perham slipping into the tackle and immediately jumping up uninjured.

Defeat could cost Manly a spot in the finals.

“The bunker needs to understand that where the defender cannot be said to be careless in any way – and there is only accidental or incidental contact with the head – then there is no penalty,” Hasler said.

Des Hasler has asked why this tackle from Dylan Edwards wasn’t penalised. NRL Imagery
Des Hasler has asked why this tackle from Dylan Edwards wasn’t penalised. NRL Imagery

“It is nonsensical to suggest that minor contact with head or neck in a perfectly legitimate tackle can bring a penalty.

“If they are going to scrutinise legitimate tackles like Christian Tuipulotu, then why wasn’t Dylan Edwards’ tackle on Suaalii scrutinised in the same fashion, and many others like it.

“Both Christian Tuipulotu and Dylan Edwards’ tackles are what this game is built on – bravery and commitment and perhaps one of the greatest actions in a game, the try-saver.

“And the fans love to see it.”

The NRL preferred not to respond to Hasler’s comments.

Fans continue to flood social media and radio talk back to express angst and exasperation over the bunker. They appear to stand united in wanting the bunker either abolished or scaled back.

Adding to confusion over the weekend was a decision by the NRL match review committee.

While the bunker stepped in and penalised Tuipulotu for an alleged high shot, the match review committee decided against laying a charge on the Manly winger.

“They got the interpretation of the Christian Tuipulotu tackle wrong – they stuffed it up,” Hasler said on Saturday. “It was a great tackle, a try-saving tackle, a perfectly legal tackle. There was no foul play and no-one was injured. None of that. It’s just ridiculous.”

Hasler was adamant his side would have won the match had the bunker not penalised Tuipulotu.

“We do, we do win the game. There were two minutes to go. We go down the other end and kick for the corner, it’s all over,” Hasler said.

“(NRL CEO) Andrew Abdo needs to make quick adjustments. If we’re going to use the bunker for foul play then we really need a set of criteria around when they interfere because they can change the course of a match.”

Without champion fullback Tom Trbojevic, ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury, Manly must somehow regroup for Thursday night’s big match against Melbourne at AAMI Park. The Storm have been beaten 68-12 in their past two games against North Queensland and Penrith.

Des’ first crack at bunker

Irate Manly coach Des Hasler has claimed his side was robbed of what could be a season-defining victory against Parramatta by an interfering and blundering bunker.

Hasler blew up after a crucial penalty late in the game over an alleged illegal tackle by winger Christian Tuipulotu who was later cleared by the NRL match review committee.

“They got the interpretation of the Christian Tuipulotu tackle wrong – they stuffed it up,” Hasler said. “It was a great tackle, a trysaving tackle, a perfectly legal tackle.

“There was no foul play and no one was injured. None of that. It’s just ridiculous.”

Pressed by The Sunday Telegraph whether his side would have won if the penalty wasn’t awarded, Hasler “We do, we do win the game. There were two minutes to go. We go down the other end and kick for the corner, it’s all over.

Manly coach Des Hasler blew up over a late penalty against Christian Tuipulotu. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Manly coach Des Hasler blew up over a late penalty against Christian Tuipulotu. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“(NRL CEO) Andrew Abdo needs to make quick adjustments. If we’re going to use the bunker for foul play then we really need a set of criteria around when they interfere because they can change the course of a match.”

Hasler rang NRL head of football Graham Annesley to express his anger and frustration on Saturday morning.

The confusion and inconsistency between the match review committee and bunker has exasperated Hasler, whose side led 20-16 when the incident occurred but were defeated moments later when a converted try gave Parramatta a 22-20 win.

Tuipulotu was penalised — with Manly grimly defending their own tryline – for a high shot on Parramatta winger Hayze Perham in the dying moments.

The trysaving tackle, which took Perham over the sideline, was applauded by teammates before the bunker intervened to claim it was high and Parramatta received a penalty. The Eels scored seconds later.

It was clear Perham was slipping in the wet conditions when the tackle was being completed.

Hasler’s anger at the penalty and late Parramatta try was compounded when the match review committee cleared Tuipulotu on Saturday morning.

Social media went into meltdown after the game and the message was brutal: fans have had a gutful of the bunker’s interference.

Sean Keppie during the Sea Eagles’ 22-20 loss on Friday night. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Sean Keppie during the Sea Eagles’ 22-20 loss on Friday night. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“I just had a conversation with him (Annelsey) and it comes down to the bunker – do we have it there for foul play? The match review committee didn’t charge (Tuipulotu) and said he didn’t come into contact with any part of (Perham’s) head but the referee (Ben Cummins) and bunker said he did,” Hasler said.

“I said that the match review committee didn’t charge him so he didn’t come into contact with any part of his head. Perham got up, he wasn’t hurt, wasn’t concussed, wasn’t taken to hospital. Play goes on.

“There was nothing wrong with Perham. He got up and everyone was going to the scrum and then the referee’s stuff it up. It’s just ridiculous.

“If we’re going to keep the bunker involved in foul play, they have to take into consideration all outcomes of the tackle. Does play continue? Is he injured? Does he leave the field? Then they can decide whether it’s a penalty or play on.”

NRL match review committee manager, Luke Patten, said: “Although there is contact with the head, the action was not deemed careless. The Manly defender is aiming at the body, and is not on an upwards trajectory.

“The ball carrier drops in height just before impact. The on-field penalty was considered sufficient action.”

Referee Ben Cummins penalised Manly 9-2.

On Facebook, former Manly prop Mark Carroll described Cummins as “a joke.”

“The wet ground saw him slip and drop dramatically and Christian Tuipulotu just went through with the contact,” said Fox League commentator Greg Alexander.

Magic Mitch sinks Sea Eagles

– Martin Gabor

A shattered Tom Trbojevic will miss the State of Origin series and could miss the rest of the season after he dislocated his left shoulder while trying to defuse a kick on a night Mitch Moses nailed a clutch conversion at the death to hand the Eels a thrilling 22-20 win over Manly.

Trbojevic walked off in agony with his left arm in a makeshift sling after he landed awkwardly, and the early reports are that his left shoulder popped out.

The Sea Eagles superstar was having his best game of the season when he landed heavily on his left arm while trying to stop a Parramatta try in the 64th minute.

Trbojevic stayed down and looked in severe pain before he walked off with Manly’s medical staff cradling his arm in his jersey.

“It’s a dislocated shoulder, but we won’t be able to determine the extent of the damage until scans are done,” Manly coach Des Hasler said.

Mitchell Moses celebrates kicking the sideline conversion that won the game. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mitchell Moses celebrates kicking the sideline conversion that won the game. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

It’s a massive blow for Trbojevic, the Sea Eagles and the Blues given the State of Origin series opener is less than three weeks away on June 8.

The reigning Dally M medallist was the player of the series for the Blues last year and his loss would cause major headaches for NSW coach Brad Fittler who is already dealing with injuries to other key players, including Latrell Mitchell, Victor Radley, Cam Murray and Ryan Papenhuyzen.

“Everyone enjoys watching Tommy play,” Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans said. “It doesn’t really matter who you’re cheering for, you’re cheering for the best players to be out there.”

Manly’s marquee man was the main reason why they were leading for most of Friday’s match, with Trbojevic playing a part in all the big plays in the opening hour.

He showed no signs of the corked thigh that hampered him at Magic Round last week, breaking free to set up Reuben Garrick in the second half.

Manly were playing with a numerical advantage at that stage after Mitch Moses was sent to the sin bin a minute before halftime because he dragged back Trbojevic in a try-scoring situation.

Tom Trbojevic was shattered after dislocating his shoulder. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Tom Trbojevic was shattered after dislocating his shoulder. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

HIGH DRAMA

The Trbojevic injury was just the start of the drama as the Eels crossed with two minutes remaining to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Will Penisini’s spectacular season in the centres continued when he dived over in the right corner after Ryan Matterson had kept the play alive with six sixth offload of the night.

The Eels had a two-man overlap because the Sea Eagles had earlier been reduced to 12 men when Sean Keppie was sent to the sin bin for an ugly lifting tackle on Reagan Campbell-Gillard in front of the posts.

The two points would’ve meant nothing to Parramatta because they were down 20-16, so they took the tap and quickly spread it left, only for Hayze Perham to be bundled into touch.

But the Bunker saw it differently and ordered referred Ben Cummins to blow a penalty, even though it was hard to see any high contact by Christian Tuipulotu.

“It wasn’t high. It was a good tackle. It’s a brave tackle,” Hasler said.

It gave the Eels another set and they didn’t miss out this time with Penisini sliding over before Moses made up for his earlier sin bin with a clutch kick from the right sideline to win the game. It was a huge moment for Moses who has missed some kicks in big games over the past 12 months.

Mitchell Moses kicked the winning goal from the sideline for the Eels. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mitchell Moses kicked the winning goal from the sideline for the Eels. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

MILESTONE MAN

Clint Gutherson will never forget his 150th NRL game.

The night started poorly when he was denied the opening try because of some interference by Perham in the lead-up, but he hit back later in the first half when he threw a peach of a pass to set his left winger up.

But it looked like Manly’s left winger would ruin the special night with Garrick crossing for a double to take his tally to nine tries from seven games against the Eels.

However, Gutherson and the Eels had the last laugh, with the inspirational skipper finishing with 148 running metres and some big tackles at the back to seal the win.

“I’ll go home with my family, sit back and relax and have a drink and reminisce about what’s happened,” he said.

SIVO TIME

The Eels should get a huge boost next week with Maika Sivo a massive chance to return against the Raiders.

Sivo eased his way back in the NSW Cup and scored two tries for the Eels, and that might be enough for Brad Arthur to recall him next week.

The Fijian winger hasn’t played since he tore his ACL in Round 23 last year, and the blue and golds desperately need his powerful carries after churning through several players on the left edge.

Perham was solid in attack on Friday and scored two tries, but he doesn’t provide the punch coming out of trouble that Sivo does.

Originally published as Comment: Fine mess for coaches telling the truth in the NRL

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