NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine’s 100% FOOTY every Monday night of the NRL season, debating rugby league’s hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in tonight at 10:15pm (AEST) following a bumper round 20!
The last week has revealed inconsistencies in the match review process that are, quite simply, laughable.
I’ve got no doubt that had the Nathan Cleary tackle happened in week one of the season then he wouldn’t have been sent off, but the previous has been set in recent months, so from that point of view he had to go.
He’s subsequently been hit with a grade three dangerous throw charge, and with the early plea he’ll miss five weeks.
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That to me is a bit harsh. In round 16 Jarrod Wallace was sent off for a similar incident, and he copped a grade two.
I went back and watched the Wallace tackle on Newcastle’s Simi Sasagi, and I’ve got to say I thought Wallace’s tackle was worse.
He got the player into more of a vertical position than Cleary did, there’s no doubt Cleary got Dylan Brown beyond the horizontal but he landed on the upper part of his shoulder, whereas Sasagi was almost vertical and then went straight down.
Given Wallace received a grade two I thought maybe that was the way the match review committee may have gone with Cleary, but there’s no doubt the added hysteria because it was one of the biggest names in the game played apart.
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With all due respect to Jarrod Wallace he’s not Nathan Cleary, and I think that’s played a part here.
Two other incidents on the weekend have left me puzzled.
I thought the Tom Burgess hit on Ronaldo Mulitalo was pretty bad. I couldn’t see anywhere he was going to hit him other than in the head. You could argue that’s reckless, instead he was given grade two careless, and only misses one match with an early plea.
Then you see Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who’s the biggest guy in the game, he comes down with what I think is an intentional elbow to the head of Warriors hooker Wayde Egan.
Had that resulted in a broken jaw, there’s no doubt that would have been referred straight to the judiciary and he’d be looking at a long suspension.
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But because Egan came back onto the field with nothing more than a few busted teeth, Nelson gets off with no charge at all. I can’t believe Nelson is free to play this week, I think it’s ridiculous.
There’s not the hysteria and hype around the incident because the outcome wasn’t too bad, and that’s what frustrates me about the judicial process. It seems so reactive to the way the media portrays things.
That also applies to an extent to Patrick Carrigan, who’s been referred straight to the judicial for his hip drop on Jackson Hastings. It’s because poor old Jackson has suffered a broken ankle, so Carrigan gets referred.
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I don’t think there’s a player in the game that’s ever trained to drop their hip on the back of someone’s leg with the intent of breaking an opponents ankle. All it is is a player trying to get the ball carrier to the ground, so they use their own body weight to do so.
In this case it went terribly wrong, and Jackson Hastings will be out of action for a long time, but there’s no way Carrigan went into that tackle intending to hurt Hastings. All he as thinking was how to get the player on the ground.
Blind Freddy could see that Dale Finucane’s case was an accident last week, but he’s serving two weeks for an accidental head clash. Nathan Cleary and Pat Carrigan were both accidents. Yet the biggest block in the competition comes out with what looks to be an intentional forearm to the head, breaking his opponent’s teeth but fortunately not his jaw, and he’s free to play on.
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The contrast is crazy, and laughable.
We won’t see Cleary on the field again until the finals, which is not ideal for Penrith, but there are positives to be taken out of it. With both Cleary and Jarome Luai sidelined, it might help other players in the Penrith team realize where they can improve to help the side keep winning, not that the Panthers have exactly been struggling!
They could actually be more dangerous as a result of this, because the other players might get better, then you get add a fit and fresh Cleary back for the finals.
Someone like Dylan Edwards is such a good player, but if I had one criticism of him I’d say his ball-playing skills could improve. Well, the next five weeks is the perfect opportunity for him to refine that, in the absence of Cleary and Luai.
The break might actually do wonders for Cleary as well, he’s played a lot of footy in recent years, and just come off a State of Origin series where they didn’t get the win. He would have placed a lot of pressure on himself during Origin. It’s a long suspension, and nobody wants it, but the positive is he can freshen up. He might take a week or two off, then come back into the mix at training.
It will help him become more of a leader, it’s an opportunity for him to act as a coach and mentor to the younger halves over the next month as they steer the team. It can be beneficial for him.
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Clearly Penrith are red-hot favorites to win the competition, but if something was to go wrong in the finals, like an injury or a suspension, or even a send off, we could finally see a winner come from outside the top-four on the ladder.
On their day there’s a number of teams who can get the job done.
The Roosters consistency has been very ordinary all year, it really has, but at their best with everyone fit and firing, they can beat anyone.
Likewise, Parramatta has been all over the shop, but they’ve already proven how good they can be, they’ve beaten Penrith twice and also Melbourne.
Both those teams are outside the top four at the moment, but if things go their way they could be holding the trophy on grand final day.
Realistically, if Penrith has everyone on the paddock and at their best, they’re a long way in front of everyone else, but in a grand final you never know. A couple of calls could go against you, or you have a player sent off, and all of a sudden it’s a totally different story.
Partly it will depend on how the draw shakes out and where teams finish on the ladder and who they play in week one of the finals.
That’s why last weekend’s win by the Cowboys over the Tigers was so important, the Tigers should have won that game. Instead, the Cowboys keep the points and they’re in outright second on the ladder.
They’ll probably finish there, which gives them a home semi final, and the opportunity to go straight to a preliminary final, and probably avoid Penrith until the grand final.
Then it comes down to who plays who in weeks two and three.
There’s still lots to play out this season, it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds.
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