NRL admits it’s ‘concerned’ about players staying down and milking penalties

The NRL have admitted they are concerned about players staying down after tackles and waiting for a possible penalty to be awarded following an intervention from the Bunker, despite the on-field referee initially ruling play-on.

“I’m not going to stand here and pretend it isn’t something we’re monitoring and that we’re unprepared to deal with,” Graham Annesley, head of football elite operations, said during his weekly press briefing.

The issue of players milking penalties has become a hot topic after the controversial elimination final between the Roosters and Rabbitohs descended into madness last Sunday.

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In a game which featured seven sin-bins and numerous HIA’s due to high tackles, Trent Robinson was asked post-match if the issue of players remaining on the ground after minimal contact was now prevalent. 

The Roosters coach bristled at suggestions any of his players had done so during the contest, in order to get an opposition player sent to the bin. 

Yet Phil Gould was adamant that milking penalties had infiltrated it’s way into the game. He singled out Latrell Mitchell for doing it on a number of occasion, after the fullback felt he’d been illegally targeted by the defence.  

“Latrell Mitchell made a farce of rugby league yesterday, and he was within his rights to do so,” Gould said, while appearing on 100% Footy.

“A couple of times, he just refused to get up and play the ball.

“He looked at the referee and said ‘I know it’s not a penalty, you know it’s not a penalty, but let’s see what the Bunker thinks’ – he made a farce of the game.”

MORE: Phil Gould tees off on NRL Bunker labelling it ’embarrassing’ after Roosters and Bunnies clash

Commentator Andrew Voss echoed Gould’s sentiments, when he claimed players are being given too much leeway to influence the Bunker, calling for the ref to take back control over proceedings. 

“I’ll go on about the Latrell Mitchell one where he just put the ball on the ground,” Voss said on SEN’s Breakfast with Vossy & Brandy.

“He got to his knee and put the ball on the ground, and we don’t call that a knock-on?

“The official had to be strong there and say, ‘You’ve lost the ball’.

“We can’t encourage that. You can’t be putting the ball on the ground like it’s a down in the NFL.”

Annesley admitted he was worried that players were taking advantage of the Bunker’s ability to scrutinise each and every tackle, if they felt like they had been a victim of foul play.

“I am concerned about the issue of players waiting for the intervention of the officials, but that’s not isolated to yesterday.

“It’s a trade-off. When the game didn’t have a Bunker at all, there were horrendous errors that were being made.

“But we’ve got to make sure we don’t have rules and procedures in place that actually encourages players to stay down when they’re not impacted by the tackle.

“We have to find ways to deal with that so it doesn’t become an ongoing problem.”

MORE: Trent Robinson questions the dismissal of Radley during elimination final loss to Souths 

Yet Annesley placed the responsibility of stamping out the act of milking penalties back at the feet of the players.

“It’s a cooperative fix,” he said.

“It’s not something that we can necessarily address just through mandating certain player reactions.”

There have been calls from some quarters – most notably Gould – suggesting the Bunker should be scrapped or only allowed to rule on try-scoring situations.

However, Annesley claimed video technology had improved the game immeasurably, while also reducing the possibility of a team being disadvantaged due to foul play going unnoticed. 

“It isn’t used a lot for general play,” he insisted.

“The area of foul play is the area most people are talking about when it comes to the Bunker. But we face the possibility of a team being without a player for much of a match because of an incident of foul play that the match officials might not see.

“Is that really going to be acceptable to everybody?

“It’s all well saying in the off-season, ‘Oh, we’ll just put up with that’. But guess what happens the first time it actually happens? No one puts up with it.

“They say, ‘Sack the referee’ or ‘Why didn’t we use the Bunker?’

“There’s a happy medium, where we’re doing everything we can to minimise officiating errors but still maintaining the flow and the entertainment value of the game.”

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