OPINION

NRL crackdown: more players to be sin-binned

Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary looks for support during the match against the Bulldogs on Monday night. Keary and fullback James Tedesco are finding plenty of room to move under the NRL rule changes. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary looks for support during the match against the Bulldogs on Monday night. Keary and fullback James Tedesco are finding plenty of room to move under the NRL rule changes. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

We knew it would happen. We predicted in this very column when the competition restarted a month ago with one referee and the new six-again rule to speed up the ruck that it wouldn't take long for the coaches to react.

The smart ones would get a feel for how the game was being played and come up with ways to combat the new style to suit their team. Right on cue, that's exactly what has happened.

After only a couple of rounds, there have been some subtle changes that have effectively slowed things down again at the ruck. The footy hasn't been as good.

A couple of the big ones for me have been the skinny 10 metres with defensive lines jumping the gun, markers either not standing square or standing with more depth and defenders with their hands all over the footy.

But on the other side of the coin is the tackled player with the footy not getting to his feet properly to play the ball in a bid to play it as quickly as possible. That's as big a blight as the rest of these offences.

All of these have crept into the game over the past couple of weeks and with one referee having to run his eye over all of it, a lot is going undetected and unpunished.

Like I said, no surprise because it was always going to happen.

To the NRL's credit, they have acted quickly with Graham Annesley firing off an email to all club coaches during the week to warn them of the crackdown that was about to happen.

The referee's big weapon to combat the sneakiness of coaches and players will be the use of the sin-bin. They have been encouraged to put offending players in the bin if they believe it is warranted.

You just hope the whistle-blowers are consistent with it and get the support they are going to need from the NRL when the pressure comes because mark my words, it will come.

The refs have had a bit of a cruisy run from the media, the clubs and the fans since the game came back but I get the feeling the blowtorch will be on them soon enough. It will only take a player being controversially sent to the bin at a crucial stage in a game with the outcome on the line for it to explode.

There are also the inconsistencies between different referees that teams have to adjust to with some being more heavy-handed than others in their ruck interpretations.

It's going to be an interesting few weeks to see how the referees respond to the sin bin edict and how the clubs react.

I want to see a fast, free-flowing game with fewer stoppages and more fatigue. But at the same time, I don't want to see our game become like how modern-day touch footy is played.

There needs to be a happy medium. Hopefully, we'll get that this weekend with as few controversies as possible.

Predictions

KNIGHTS v BRONCOS

Newcastle will be on a high with Kalyn Ponga re-signing midweek and will be keen to bounce back from the Melbourne defeat. Despite their first loss, I think the Knights curve is heading in the right direction with good recruitment and some quality juniors coming through.

The Broncs showed far more urgency despite not being able to hold off Manly last week and have a couple of players back but I still think the Knights will get the job done here.

RABBITOHS v WARRIORS

I like Souths here with Latrell Mitchell having his best game for the club last week and Cody Walker's return making a big difference but the Warriors are showing plenty of unity and if they control the footy, will give themselves some hope of an upset.

PANTHERS v STORM

It's hard to get a read on Penrith but if they bring their A game to this one and compete like they did against the Eels last week for all but that decisive 10-minute period in the second half, they can really trouble the Storm.

But I just get the feeling Melbourne found some rhythm against the Knights that was missing early and with Cameron Smith finding his groove, will get away with this.

TITANS v DRAGONS

The pressure has been off the Dragons this week following the win over the Sharks but it will be back 10-fold if they don't back it up and knock over the Titans. On paper, the Dragons win.

TIGERS v COWBOYS

If the Tigers limit Jason Taumalolo's impact, they will win, With no Michael Morgan and Val Holmes, I'm not sure where the Cowboys' points are going to come from.

ROOSTERS v EELS

How good are the Roosters going? No team is capitalising on the rule changes better then they are because of their great mobility and the pace at which they are playing. Luke Keary and James Tedesco are going okay too aren't they?

The Eels have been tough, gritty and determined and will take the game right to the defending premiers. It's a big test for the Eels halves Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown. They need to stand up. Roosters in a tight one.

RAIDERS v EAGLES

Another high quality contest looms with Tom Trbojevic the biggest threat to a Raiders victory. He's been in great form for the Eagles but limit his impact and the Raiders will get home in another close one.

SHARKS v BULLDOGS

The Dogs were blown off the park early against the Roosters but won't find the Sharks as menacing. I don't know what to make of Cronulla. They need more from Shaun Johnson and Jesse Ramien. If they execute better than they did against the Dragons, they should get home.

This story I predict ... more sin-binnings this weekend first appeared on The Canberra Times.