Sports

Robinson tees off, but rattled refs held to ransom by revolving rule book



Like a ruptured oil tanker at sea, that’s the scale of the mess the NRL face after the latest addition to Russell Crowe’s Book of Feuds.

As remnants from league’s latest spill lap the shoreline, the key question for bigwigs following the Friday night Roosters-Rabbitohs shambles is where to commence the cleanup.

Surprisingly calm in the wash up, Trent Robinson pointed towards the darker spots. Despite the scars of a 54-12 thumping, the Roosters coach planted both feet and with the grace of Ernie “The Big Easy” Els, simply teed off.

Whack, long and straight, fizzing above the fairway. First, he landed on the refs, then bounced off the bunker before hitting the rule makers and rolling into the cup.

The ace will slug the Roosters’ hip pocket, but the fine is irrelevant. For a competition whose rule book never leaves the printers, it’s a line through the oil-soaked sand that chairman Peter V’landys can’t ignore.

Ahead 24-12 nearing the hour mark, Souths were never really under threat in a game that until that point had failed to deliver on a century of hate.

Apart from bragging rights and with third spot already secured, the result was largely inconsequential to the Rabbitohs’ season.

Latrell Mitchell, earth to Latrell? Wayne Bennett must still be asking the question.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Now through a fractured cheekbone, if Joey Manu could, he’d probably be asking the same thing.

In a split-second of madness, Mitchell’s reckless shoulder not only ended his season and that of his former teammate, it has left the Bunnies’ prospects under a very dark cloud.

Of more concern was the immediate on-field fall out, or lack thereof. In a season divided by its wild variation in punishments for head-high contact, it’s fair to say, even in the 1980s the Rabbitohs fullback would’ve been showered by the time the final siren sounded.

The fact referee Ashley Klein and Bunker side-kick Henry Perenara failed to dismiss Mitchell for more than ten minutes was central to Robinson’s post-match burn. And in a show of solidarity the following day, the NRL acknowledged Perenara’s error and were quick to demote the former referee from Saturday’s games.

Klein and Perenara are right to take their medicine, but in an environment where rules and interpretation expectations continue to change, alongside the other whistleblowers, they’re on a hiding to nothing.

From high shots to crushers, the next blitz is always just around the corner.

The only thing more absurd than a revolving rule book is an expectation of consistency among the referees.

Impossible to appease the masses at the best of times, banking on logical decisions while the top brass pander to television executives is like expecting governments to align on a COVID strategy.

And that’s not to excuse Klein for not marching Mitchell, but the muddled look on his face mirrored a culmination of doubt fashioned over the months since the comp kicked off.

It’s just the tip of the iceberg – the indecision doesn’t stop on the field, it filters through to the match review committee and judiciary.

Now, with the finals just a fortnight away, the time to rectify the mess has passed.

So, just like Trent Robinson, have a blow up when your team is dudded. Just don’t sound surprised, and show some compassion for the refs as you shake your fist towards the chiefs at the roundtable.



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