Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 10:47 PM


It is becoming quite apparent that referee blow-ups are becoming worth the price – or at least the risk of the price – for coaches and clubs.

The NRL is addicted to the perception of parity. In some areas, like strict salary cap enforcement, it is a great positive. In other areas, like refereeing, it is a blight on the game.

There is absolutely no question that match officials manufacture penalty counts during matches. This is not an accusation of match-fixing. It is an accusation that officials try to protect themselves by throwing out even penalty counts.

Last round every penalty count finished within four. Five finished within three.

Referees are tipped penalty counts. They don’t enforce every rule. They pick and choose so therefore have the power to manufacture penalty counts.

They do this in a game. And they do it over the course of a season.

There are just three teams in 2017 with a penalty differentiation greater than one. One penalty. One. Melbourne are losing penalty counts by an average of 1.53 per game, while the Eels are losing by an average of 1.41. North Queensland are up by an average of 2 penalties per game.

If that isn’t evidence of systemic penalty manufacturing, I’ll swallow my whistle and call myself Mogsheen Jadwat.

Of course, simple penalty counts don’t account for the fact that all penalties are not created equal. But that is irrelevant. The public don’t have access to stats looking at where and when penalties are given. The perception of evenness is all that matters to the NRL.

Which is why teams tend to be better off after a coaching blow-up.

Canberra came and blew Souths off the park after Ricky Stuart’s blow-up. The Raiders won the penalty count 10-9 but were awarded four of the first five penalties inside the first 20 minutes. Souths received three of their penalties in the last 10 minutes when the game was over at 32-12. Two other penalties came in the final minute before halftime.

Paul McGregor copped a $10,000 fine after blowing up following the loss to Newcastle. The Dragons won the penalty count 6-2 in their next match against Souths. The penalty count at halftime was 5-0.

it is clear that a coaching blow-up is enough to force the NRL to give clubs favourable conditions the following week.

Paul Green dished it out last week. Have your last on the key penalties, particularly early, going in the Cowboys’ favour this week.

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About the author

Nick Tedeschi

You will not find a more passionate rugby league man than Nick, whose Making The Nut column has garnered a huge cult following over the last decade. The Sydney-based raconteur co-authored The Book of NRL Lists with CBS stablemate WILL EVANS in 2014 and has penned several other books; he joined the CBS team with his weekly Six Up The Middle feature in 2016.

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