Parramatta back-rower Kenny Edwards claimed a piece of unwanted history on Friday night, becoming the first player to be sin-binned under the NRL’s recent ‘no-slapping’ edict.
Edwards got more than a little overzealous with his celebration of a crucial error by North Queensland second-rower Gavin Cooper in the 69th minute of the Townsville clash, attempting to embrace Cooper (as well as an Eels teammate).
Cooper unsurprisingly took exception to the goading and shoved Edwards – who inexplicably did his best Chappelle Show Rick James impression, unleashing a sharp open-hander.
Not content with his place in rugby league’s hall of infamy as the inaugural sin-binned slapper, our Kenny went the full Des Hasler in the changing rooms, wildly throwing a chair into the lockers.
It will go down as one of the most moronic moments of 2017. The Eels led 20-6 with 10 minutes left when Edwards’ act overturned their scrum feed and left the team a man short with a penalty against them on their own line.
The Cowboys were unable to capitalise on the advantage and the blue-and-golds finished with a richly-deserved 26-6 victory. Undoubtedly, Edwards finished with a rich-deserved blast from coach Brad Arthur for a brain explosion that so easily could have cost the Eels dearly.
But it should come as no surprise that the 27-year-old was the first player to breach the new rule.
To paraphrase commentator Andrew Voss (who alluded to Edwards’ repeat offender ways in the coverage) and to, fittingly, directly quote the late Charlie Murphy, Edwards is a habitual line-stepper.
In a career that encompasses just 45 games since his 2013 debut, New Zealand-born Edwards has managed to develop a reputation as a serial niggler, and the tactic of hugging opponents after a mistake is nothing new for the talented back-rower.
Plenty of players have operated with a similar M.O. – Ben Elias, Michael Ennis, Andrew Fifita, John Hopoate and Greg Bird to name but a few.
The only problem is, Edwards doesn’t have the control to use those types of tactics subtly and to his team’s advantage (like Elias, Ennis and, to a lesser extent, Bird) and he is not a good enough player to command a place in the Eels’ line-up in spite of his penchant for childish antics (like Fifita and Hopoate).
Perhaps what is most frustrating about Edwards’ twin moments of madness is that he was in just his second game back from a seven-week ban (plus a $60,000 fine) imposed by Parramatta after he pleaded guilty to domestic violence-related assault charges just before the season kicked off.
For a club that has had more than its share of off-field indiscretions – and has more than its share of quality forwards – Edwards can ill-afford more undisciplined flashpoints.
Whether you’re Kenny Edwards, John Hopoate or Rick James, disrespecting your peers, slapping people, losing your temper and being a habitual line-stepper is only going to have negative consequences in the long run.