Have NRL officials gone to far in trying to protect the health of players, especially over head injuries that over a career can lead to horrendous brain damage?
That question needs to be asked after two sin-binnings reduced last night’s clash between the Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights in Townsville into a shambolic farce.
I couldn’t agree more with former Test great Jonathan Thurston who bemoaned at the Queensland Country Bank stadium after the game: “It’s becoming a sport for girly boys. We’re not athletes any more; we’re actors.”
Even thought the local crowd would have enjoyed the Cowboys’ 36-20 win, the fourth in a row at home, they were stunned when Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned for an allegedly high tackle on Tyson Frizell.
For mine, it was a legtimate grab around the chest – okay, maybe it was a tad higher – but the Newcastle player milked the moment, flinging his head back and shouting “Oh, my head!” before flopping to the ground and pretending to convulse and shouting “My brain hurts; My brain hurts” over and over again.
Referee Ashley Klein then had no option but to signal ten in the bin as the Newcastle player bravely refused to be stretchered off the field.
Next to go, four minutes later, was Lachlan Burr who once again executed what appeared to be a perfectly legal, copybook tackle that any kid would be proud of – okay, maybe it was a tad higher – only for the Knights’ Jayen Brailey to fall heavily before pointing to a long grass graze on his left leg and wailing uncontrollably.
Vision clearly showed him sneaking a sideways look up at the referee and when he realised that gambit wasn’t working, he then grabbed his head in both hands and shouted “My brain hurts; My brain hurts” over and over again.
Under new NRL guidelines, Klein had no option but to signal ten in the bin as the Newcastle player bravely refused to be stretchered off the field.
That left the Townsville Cowboys down to 11 men for five-and-a-half minutes.
How the Cowboys still managed to win comfortably says much about the team’s spirit and doggednesss.
Another big disappointment for mine from the night – another glaring example of how protecting players’ health and wellbeing has gone too far – was when Klein signalled “six again” just before the game’s first-half kick-off!
Klein said he did it to give both teams plenty of warning that he would not be tolerating any violent behaviour but before kickoff! That’s just crazy!
Bring back the biff, I say! If these overpaid boofheads want to bash one another’s brains out, then let them!