The NRL is fake. Every result is fixed. Every game is scripted. Vince McMahon sits in gorilla at every game calling the shots live. The Eels only completed their fairytale run to a breakthrough title in 2009 because the NRL desperately wanted to cash in on the hype and mania of one of the greatest underdog runs across all codes. Oh wait…maybe things aren’t quite as written in stone as this weekend’s hysteria may have everyone believing.
Move aside Melbourne and the #CaM00 juggernaut, nick off you decaf soy latte sipping Roosters and excuse me while I revel in our newfound status as the biggest heels in rugby league. Following a game where both the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors were on the receiving end of a number of poor calls and missed calls that changed the flow of the match, it was Parramatta that emerged as public enemies numero uno.
The Eels have drawn plenty of public ire for finishing the game as the beneficiaries of a lopsided penalty count, some poorly officiated strip penalties and a forward pass call that frankly speaking was probably on the mark. Never mind that this is a match where the rot started with two obnoxious missed knocked calls that massively benefited the Warriors by way of Isaac Luke scoring.
Indeed the media narrative has been so fierce and deliberate that you would be forgiven that there was actually a pretty good game played by both teams behind all the drama. And to cap things off I am debuting my amazing new technological breakthrough that converts sodium chloride to a new fangled thing called moving pictures. The results are truly amazing I must say.
Disclaimer – On the off chance there are any neutrals reading this obvious (and frankly quite shitty) op-ed, this is a Parramatta fan site and I will only be highlighting things that impacted the Eels. I freely admit the Warriors copped bad calls, feel free to make videos or GIFS of those things if that is your prerogative.
Is there officially an official crisis?
Let’s get this festering pile of shit over with. Despite respectable calls for reason and understanding for officials by the likes of Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk after the fallout from the weekend, I honestly do believe the NRL has an officiating problem. Rugby league is truly one of the most difficult codes to officiate, even if the rules are relatively simple, due to the frenetic pace and intensity of the game and in that respect everyone needs to allow for a certain amount of human error.
With that said, inconsistent ruck standards, annual opening month crackdowns that shortly fade away, annual reactive mid-season officiating trends and general interpretations that show no consistency from game-to-game let alone from round-to-round are all over-arching issues that are impacting the game on a macro level.
I know I don’t have the answers but then again I am not getting paid six-figures by the NRL to devote my time to the answer. At this point we all know that any system, no matter how well implemented will still generate public outcry where there is inevitably a breakdown leading to a bad call.
Do we need more technology? There is talk about introducing Hawk-Eye technology into the NRL while the powers of the video-referee can always be increased. Or perhaps do we need more officials? Would having 2 touch-judges on each sideline (four total with one official dedicated to each team on both sidelines) help police offside defenders and forward passes more consistently? Maybe, or maybe it adds to many voices to the mix.
Fundamentally though, there is a depth issue when it comes to officiating in the NRL. Anyone that has attended the various iterations of reserve grade in recent years will attest to you that the standards there are no better. Fixing the officiating problems in the NRL starts there.
Bad Calls Supercut
With all that said, I am not above having a good old-fashioned whinge about the bad calls that impacted the Eels – doubly so in light of the concerted fan and media narrative that the Warriors were the only team hurt by the officials in that game. So here we go!
What is there to really say about this one? That is called a knock on every game, every round, every year…except for Round 19 at Bankwest Stadium it would seem. This particular missed call leads right on in to our next GIF where Isaac Luke crashes over from close range in dubious circumstances of his own.
I imagine there are plenty of Warriors fans that will defend this one but I am sorry, that is a knock on and I absolutely would not have been upset if the Eels had a try taken away under similar circumstances. This of course leveled the scores as 12-all and pivoted momentum hugely at a point where the Eels were in control of the game.
First off, we need to talk about Mitch Moses and his kick chase on the weekend. I will drop another GIF later on that highlights another terrific chase but his off-the-ball work was phenomenal and he absolutely led the way forward for his team there. Secondly, the touch judge needs to be commended in one regard here on getting the call right regarding Ken Maumalo staying in the field of play. There is a blade of grass in it but I think that he got it bang on.
I do however have a big question mark about whether Maumalo knocked on as he and Moses roll over the ball through the tackle. Referees almost always ping a player anything they pin the ball to the ground in an attempt to maintain possession and the Warriors likely dodged a bullet here. It is hard to isolate here in the GIF there is a split second where the ball pops up between Moses’ legs before both players roll over towards the sideline. A tough call but a missed one nonetheless.
Amusingly, this is a case of one wrong leading to two more. This takes place immediately after the incorrect 1-on-1 strip call where Dylan Brown was dispossessed and resulted in Clinton Gutherson taking not one but two attempts at quick tap – firstly from the strip penalty and then here after Daniel Alvaro was hit high. In both cases Gutherson was right on the spot of the infringement and especially in the second case he could not have been any closer to the mark itself.
Yet neither time was he allowed to play on despite being outside of 10m of the goal line and neither infringement resulting from an offside defender. Both quick tap attempts saw Gutherson impeded by offside defenders so even if the original call was incorrect against them, the Warriors were very lucky not to have a player in the sin bin in the wake of it all.
Chanel Harris Tevita, who had proven to be a craft proponent of the 1-on-1 strip in this particular game absolutely got away with a penalty here in a tackle where Tepai Moeroa was clearly in safe possession of the ball before it miraculously pops out. If you peep carefully you see Harris Tevita rake the ball out with his left hand and the officials should know better here. Anytime a ball comes flying out late in tackle like this, there is more than likely a cheeky defender at play.
And here we see two obvious ruck penalties ignored by the officials with Lachlan Burr clearly making a second effort to drag Clinton Gutherson back while Maika Sivo was deadset assaulted like cracked out koala bear by Gerard Beale in one of the most simple ruck penalties you will ever see.
Yes the penalty count was lopsided towards the Eels in something of a truly rare occurrence but the Warriors were damn lucky the penalty differential wasn’t blown out more. They regularly rode a very generous leash given on held calls to drive Parramatta ball-carriers backwards once a tackle was completed and as you can see above, also got away with plenty of extra-curricular work on the ground.
Am I being obnoxiously critical of the officials in the above GIFs? Certainly. In nearly any other week most of those calls barring the two knock-ons resulting in Luke’s try you wear on the chin, grumble a bit and move on. But in a week where there has been a barrage of articles and outcries about how the Warriors were hard done by, take a second to consider that both teams wore some dud calls.
Royalty reigns as Eels carve out sovereign territory
While Blake Ferguson has earned a reputation for making the big time plays this season he is now out indefinitely after suffering an adverse reaction to antibiotics. In his continued absence on the weekend Clinton Gutherson and Mitchell Moses stepped up to provide the Eels with the poise and chutzpah needed to guide their team home to victory.
Fox commentary dubbed them the King and the Prince and their royal connection was on display in some clutch moments including a forced line drop out and a sensational length of the field try that on any other day would be play of the game (one Maika Sivo had other ideas though!).
Gutherson also nabbed a gorgeous try assist when he put Ethan Parry over, making it two tries in two game for the rookie winger, while Moses kicked strongly in general play for the most part. There was one passage of play in the first half mind you where the officials lost track of the tackle count and made a very late call to indicate it was the last which resulted in a bizarre sequence of play down our right edge culminating in a hurried kick from Moses.
The other area where Moses continues to excel is from the kicking tee as the budding sharpshooter notched 4/5 dead-ball attempts with his sole miss barely missing right from out wide.
Parramatta’s tireless custodian in the meantime got a little slice of redemption at the back after he was embarrassed by a high flying Tom Trbojevic last week. With the scores locked up at 12-all, Gutherson met Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at the high-point of the contested catch and tore the ball away from him like a desperate parent at a department store battling tooth and nail for the last toy in stock on Christmas Eve.
[INSERT SPECTACULAR PHRASE #1031] Nathan Brown
Seriously though, how good is Nathan Brown? Week after week he is churning out big numbers on both sides of the ball and on Saturday afternoon he made a point of single-handedly trying to end a rally by the Warriors with a string of brutal shots in defence. The bloke is definitely pushing his name up the rungs of the lock forward pantheon.
The fend heard from outer space
This one is going to be on highlight reels forever I hope in the way that Greg Inglis and Jamie Soward are forever destined live on immortalised for the monstrous fend that sent Soward flying.
In one of the most devastating displays of power and explosive athleticism, Maika Sivo fended off Blake Ayshford so hard that his kids will likely be born with a hand-shaped birthmark on their chests.
If you ever find yourself falling out of love with the game, it is plays like this that help highlight why rugby league is indeed one of the greatest sports in the world.
The tackle that had a million hearts in a million mouths
Not happy to be simply confined to a brilliant offensive play, Sivo also produced a ripper of a hit on ‘RTS’ to force an error. I deadset went through the seven stages of grief in one minute afterwards though as trainers attended the Fijian powerhouse and administered an anterior draw test for an ACL or PCL injury. Thankfully the rookie star was able to play out the rest of the game.
Right idea, wrong personnel?
There was a little bit of confusion at the resumption of the second half as Reed Mahoney failed to take the field. Fans immediately reached for the panic button before it was revealed that Brad Arthur had made a tactical substitution to spell his rake. Clinton Gutherson deputised Reed in the meantime and while I actually like the idea of giving Mahoney a prolonged break by substituting him either before or after half-time, it does beg the question – why implement this now the week you finally drop Jaeman Salmon?
As I said, really like the idea but the timing of it all does leave me scratching my head a bit.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid
I don’t even what Ethan Parry went through on Saturday. Nor do I envy the recovery session he would have endured following the game. The rookie went to war on Saturday and wore plenty of punishing hits as he shouldered the burden that comes with replacing Blake Ferguson. Parry battled his way to 165m from 16 carries and notched his second try in just his second game but the Warriors certainly let him know what it means to be a first-grader.
To his credit he never shirked the hard work and while he did spill a couple of high balls in the second half, the contests for said catches were more than a bit messy.
He also wasn’t quite in sync with Waqa Blake when it came to goal line defence but that is to be expected when you pair a rookie winger with a club debutante out on the right edge.
The Final Word
Don’t let all the drama and media narrative dissuade you – this was a good win by the Eels. Both teams came to play on Saturday afternoon and subsequently ripped into each other. Parramatta have been on the receiving ends of more than a handful of howlers that have cost them dearly in recent years and the consensus reply from neutral has always been ‘well you should be better than letting one or two calls beat you’.
It was a mixed bag of results across the NRL for the Eels in Round 19. While our grip on the Top 8 was strengthened with losses to Penrith and Newcastle, an upset victory by Manly over the Storm and the Canberra victory over the aforementioned Panthers puts a potential Top 4 berth that much further out of grasp.
As always though, the focus must be on next week as the Eels travel to face the struggling Dragons. Peni Terepo will be back from suspension while Shaun Lane could be a chance to return from a lacerated finger to add some intrigue to this afternoon’s Team List Tuesday.
Credit to Fox Sports NRL for all images and GIFs used. Said images and GIFs have been reproduced for review on The Cumberland Throw under Fair Dealing.