Saturday 24 March 2018 / 05:58 AM

Golden Points – NRL Round 21

Sanity prevailing in shoulder-charge debate

NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg, Roosters coach Trent Robinson and Test captain Cameron Smith should be commended for speaking out against popular – but ill-conceived – opinion and confirming that the shoulder-charge has no place in the game. Influential figures Phil Gould, Peter Sterling and Paul Gallen should be condemned in equal measure for getting caught up in the hype of Kane Evans’ spectacular hit on Sam Kasiano and calling for the shoulder-charge to be reinstated; it was incredibly irresponsible of the trio given their high standing in the code.

Sunshine Coast forward James Ackerman tragically died in June after being hit by a shoulder-charge by Wynnum Manly’s Francis Molo, a tackle that was very similar to Evans’ shot on Kasiano. The horrific Queensland Cup incident showed exactly why it was outlawed, backing up the NRL’s research findings before the ban was put in place. The fact Evans was not charged – and the calls for the shoulder-charge to be reinstated – was disrespectful to Ackerman’s family and an insult to his memory.

Magic men light up drab premiership

Jennings’ brilliant try from a Pearce grubber; Holmes’ chip-and-chase touchdown; Wighton’s freakish first-half efforts; Thurston’s magical assist; Lyon’s incredible pass and even more astounding kick to lay on two Manly tries; Marshall’s mind-blowing try; the combination of Soward and Cartwright to set up Brown’s try – it was an extraordinary highlights reel to emerge from Round 22, featuring several try-of-the-season contenders and the sort of unstructured, off-the-cuff genius that has largely been missing during a 2015 NRL campaign that is yet to hit its straps.

Sin-bin for foul play a must

The NRL can try and jazz up the game as much as it wants with its interchange reductions and shot-clocks, but the governing body should take care of much more pertinent issues first. Newcastle prop Kade Snowden was ironed in the 12th minute by St George Illawarra counterpart Leeson Ah Mau and did not return due to the code’s concussion guidelines.

Yet again a team was left shorthanded as a result of foul play, with no punishment other than a penalty meted out to the offending team. An 18th man replacement for concussion victims and an automatic sin-bin for players that go on report as a result of foul play would be easily implementable and an effective fix for a growing problem. The NRL should be embarrassed that Rugby Union continues to use the sin-bin in a useful and sensible way while it sits on the Rugby League shelf gathering dust.

And another thing…

While we’re hovering around the topic, how could the video referees deny Gold Coast winger David Mead a penalty try when he was blatantly taken out by Parramatta opposite Semi Radradra and – even more ludicrously – not sin-bin the big Fijian for a flagrant professional foul?

Mannering, Warriors robbed by itchy-fingered video refs

Given the unnecessarily drawn out video ref decisions we are subjected to on a weekly basis, it was particularly galling to see the men in the box pull the trigger early when a game – and potentially a club’s season – was on the line. Simon Mannering was ruled to have lost the ball forward in the final minute after the Warriors appealed for a score-levelling try. The third angle showed the ball had more than a little bit of help from Cronulla’s Jayson Bukuya, yet it was only looked at once before the on-field official’s original ‘No Try’ decision was confirmed.

Mannering, about as humble an honest a player to have laced a boot, revealed afterwards that he believed he’d had the ball stripped off him. It was a slack and gutless effort from the video refs, who seem to either look for things that aren’t there or frantically search for the easy way out. Unfortunately, the correct decision always lies somewhere in between.

Sandow’s twisted history lesson

New Warrington halfback Chris Sandow should really brush up on his Rugby League history before he starts mouthing off about the game’s greats – particularly one whose jumper he showed such disregard for with his erratic performances and weak-willed defence. In case you missed it, dumped Parramatta playmaker Sandow fired a broadside at legendary Eels halfback Peter Sterling, who became increasingly critical of Sandow towards the end of his tumultuous four-season stint at the club.

Sandow claimed Sterling was only great because he had the likes of Ray Price and Mick Cronin around him – seemingly inferring Sandow would have been just as dominant with better players to work alongside – and that Sterling probably didn’t have to do much defensively. ‘Sterlo’, in fact, was a tremendous defender; in 1990, his then-coach Cronin remarked, “you can say you were there the day Sterling missed a tackle”, after a rare-as-hen’s-teeth defensive failure to let North Sydney’s David Fairleigh score a try.

Furthermore, Sterling won two Rothman’s Medals, a Dally M and a Golden BootafterPrice, Cronin and co. left the club and the blue-and-golds had become also-rans. Sandow’s attempt to cover up his own gross shortcomings by downplaying a Parramatta icon’s achievements are as embarrassing as anything he has produced on or off the field in the last four years.

What to do with Trbojevic?

He’s quite possibly the most exciting talent to be unearthed in 2015, a potential NSW Origin wing candidate next year, and proved he is far too good for the NYC by chalking up four tries and a whopping 486 metres a fortnight ago. He has also scored seven tries in eight NRL games, including doubles in his last two outings in the top flight.

But brilliant rookie Tom Trbojevic can’t jag a place in a full-strength Manly backline, with Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Peta Hiku, Steve Matai and Jamie Lyon all commanding a berth when fit. All five are still contracted for next year – so where does that leave Trbojevic? I guess that’s Trent Barrett’s problem next season, but keeping the 18-year-old in the lower grades is indefensible.

Wade Graham a Blue-in-waiting

NSW can’t keep ignoring the claims of Cronulla’s ball-playing forward Wade Graham if they hope to end Queensland’s Origin domination. Tough, skilful, consistent, wholehearted and durable, Graham is exactly the type of rugged game-breaker the Blues were calling out for during the 2015 series while their straight up-and-down backrow contingent offered little. Graham is basically a version of Trent Merrin that can be bothered putting in for 80 minutes. Incredibly, the Penrith junior is still only 24 but boasts 142 games and eight seasons in the NRL; he was magnificent yet again in the Sharks’ gutsy win over the Warriors.

Underachiever of the week

Just when they had turned a huge post-Slater injury corner, the Storm capitulated to lose 34-16 to a Wests Tigers outfit that had been running last and conceding a truckload of points. A win would have seen Craig Bellamy’s side take a massive step towards sealing a finals berth, but they now sit perilously close to the mid-table logjam with three games remaining against teams above them on the ladder.

Overachiever of the week

The resurgent Sea Eagles continue to make a mockery of Geoff Toovey’s axing, backing up their courageous victory in Auckland with an emphatic 42-12 thrashing of the front-running Broncos in Gosford. It was vintage Manly, with the backline running red-hot. They’re still well and truly alive in the frantic top-eight race.

My new favourite player

Newcastle is due for a major cleanout, but one player they need to hang onto is utility Tyler Randell. His development has been a rare bright spot in a dismal year, culminating in an unforgettable 55-metre solo try against the Dragons in which he scorched past Josh Dugan. The Knights’ dummy-half stocks, which include Randell, Adam Clydesdale and outstanding rookie Danny Levi, is an area of genuine strength on a lopsided roster.  

Debutant report

Nathan Ross (Knights): A cracking debut from the 26-year-old, scoring a try and making 122 metres from 16 runs on the wing. The Knights are brimming with outside-back talent, but the tenacious journeyman could prove a handy pick-up for another club.

Shades of…

…Jack Gibson: The original ‘supercoach’ may have famously introduced the quip to the Rugby League lexicon when he delivered Parramatta’s first premiership after 35 seasons of trying, but it was great to see Paul McGregor dust off the “ding, dong, the witch is dead” call after his Dragons ended a seven-match losing streak on Sunday.

…2013 Grand Final: Quicksilver Roosters centre Michael Jennings’ vital go-ahead try on Friday night was remarkably similar to his stunning four-pointer that sealed the 2013 decider for the Tricolours.

…Phil Blake and Scott Gale: Valentine Holmes has revived the somewhat lost art of the chip-and-chase, producing a stunning try against the Warriors to underpin the Sharks’ comeback. The brilliant young winger/fullback also came up with a dazzling effort for the Junior Kangaroos in May, and his skills are reminiscent of the virtuoso chip-and-chasers of the 1980s, Phil Blake and Scott Gale.

…’05 Benji: It didn’t all come off, but Benji Marshall’s hot-stepping, freewheeling, fleet-footed, dummying, no-look passing display in the Dragons’ drought-breaking win over the Knights was pretty to watch. Just when the England Test side thought they could rest easy after Shaun Johnson’s injury…

NRL positional power rankings


1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

2 Greg Inglis

3 Josh Dugan

4 Jack Wighton

5 Lachlan Coote


1 Jorge Taufua

2 Valentine Holmes

3 Tom Trbojevic

4 Marika Koroibete

5 Daniel Tupou


1 Michael Jennings

2 Jamie Lyon

3 Dylan Walker

4 Blake Ferguson

5 James Roberts


1 James Maloney

2 Anthony Milford

3 Michael Morgan

4 Blake Austin

5 Kieran Foran


1 Johnathan Thurston

2 Daly Cherry-Evans

3 Ben Hunt

4 Cooper Cronk

5 Mitchell Pearce


1 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

2 Jake Trobjevic

3 Jesse Bromwich

4 Matt Scott

5 Aaron Woods


1 Jake Granville

2 Jake Friend

3 Josh Hodgson

4 Andrew McCullough

5 Michael Ennis


1 Wade Graham

2 Bryce Cartwright

3 Josh Papalii

4 Gavin Cooper

5 Kevin Proctor


1 Jason Taumololo

2 Corey Parker

3 Aiden Guerra

4 Shaun Fensom

5 Paul Gallen


1 Tyler Randell

2 Kurt Baptiste

3 Rory Kostjasyn

4 Kodi Nikorima

5 Siliva Havili

[YouTube – RLHL Rugby League Highlights]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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