NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine's 100% FOOTY on Monday night, debating rugby league's hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in from 10.00pm AEST, following all the action of Round 24!
There were no winners out of what happened on Friday night. I feel sorry for Joey Manu, and I feel sorry for Latrell Mitchell. Neither will play again this year, and Joey's in hospital with a busted face.
There was a huge reaction on Friday night, with words like "intentional", "disgraceful", and "grub" all over social media.
On what planet do people honestly believe that Latrell Mitchell thought to himself that he would run over and smash Joey Manu in the face, and somehow 25 cameras and 10,000 people at the ground would all miss it?
For people to believe it was intentional is ludicrous.
Latrell has a huge profile, and people love him or hate him. But if you take the personalities out of it, and look at it objectively, I think it was excessive to charge him with a reckless high tackle. Joey Manu had Dane Gagai tackling him from behind, Manu dropped about 30cm, if not more, at the last second, and that's got to be taken into account.
I looked at the Tom Flegler hit on the weekend on Jack Williams, to me that was just about on par with Latrell, but Flegler has a Grade 3 careless charge, compared to Latrell's Grade 2 reckless. In my opinion Latrell should have received a Grade 1 reckless at the most, or even Grade 3 careless.
Flegler hit Williams with a shoulder directly to the jaw. But Flegler hasn't got the profile Latrell does. The incident was hardly spoken about, because Jack Williams got up, and he didn't need surgery like Joey Manu.
There's no doubt the penalty for Latrell is harsher because of the injury that Manu suffered, and that's not right. It's hard not to take that into account, Manu's got a fractured face so people expect a bigger penalty, but that's the job of the match review committee. And because Flegler is lower profile than Latrell, he cops the plea and gets on with it, but three days later we're still talking about Latrell.
Take the names out of it, and the end result, and you've got two incidents that are very similar, but with very different penalties.
Because he's got priors, it's fair enough that Latrell misses the rest of the season, but I think his suspension pretty much ends Souths' hopes, because he's such an influential figure in that side. They've got the best coach in the business, so Wayne Bennett will still have them as prepared as they possibly can be, and they'll still be a threat.
However, the fact remains big games are won by the players who can produce the big moments, and Latrell does that. They've still got Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker and Damien Cook, but when push comes to shove, when something needs to happen, Latrell is the go-to man, and he won't be there.
But imagine if Souths and the Roosters played again this year? It would be a huge game. Everyone would watch it. And you know why? They'd watch it because of the spite. Before Friday's game we showed footage of players smashing each other, we show the genuine hatred between Souths and the Roosters, which has been going on for 113 years.
Everyone loves the violence of the game, but when an accident happens and something goes wrong, all of a sudden they're up in arms.
Callers on Radio 2GB on the weekend were saying that Mitchell wasn't sorry for hurting his mate. Well, once you cross that white line, there's no such thing as friends.
This is a cruel, violent sport. You're out there to hurt the opposition. You are sent out on the field to inflict pain on the other team. Legally of course. Latrell did it illegally, and he'll pay the price.
But there's no friends on the field, and Latrell showed that by the way he played when he came back on the field.
Fans talk about the brutality of the game, they love it, and of course it has to be legal, but as soon as something goes slightly wrong they want to tear a bloke down. It just doesn't make sense.
We saw on the news last night that Latrell tried to go up to the Roosters change rooms to see how Joey was, and he wasn't allowed in. I don't blame the Roosters for that. They didn't want a bar of it. That's fine, it's such a tribal sport, these two clubs hate each other.
The Roosters attitude was, "you've just hurt one of our players, we're going to get you next time," and that's fine.
I don't think they needed to let him in to apologise at all.
Time to change the role of the Bunker
Trent Robinson said after the match that it showed the Bunker can't do the job, and I'm starting to agree with him there.
I think it's time we put more onus back on the touch judges and the referees. The Bunker is doing everything, it's becoming ridiculous.
I've always believed that if the referee or the touch judges can't see anything wrong, then play on, and let the match review committee sort it out afterwards. I thought the touch judge should have been able to see what happened with Latrell. I don't know if he said anything, but it seemed like nothing was done until the bunker reviewed it.
The Bunker is getting involved way too much. I've always thought that with all the technology around, you need the Bunker, because if something gets missed and it costs a team a game, everyone will be discussing it within minutes and the NRL will cop a hiding.
But now it's involved way too much and it slows the game down. We bring in all these new rules to re-introduce fatigue, and then we stop the game all the time for the Bunker to check things. It's just not making sense.
Strip it back so the Bunker only gets involved for rulings on possible tries, and put the onus back on the referees and touch judges to make a call on foul play. Let the game flow.
Back in the day the touchie used to come running on the field with his flag up. When was the last time you saw that? What do they do these days? Everyone can see if a conversion is successful or a ball has gone into touch. Sometimes you think they're just there for show.
The referee should be the boss on the field, and I imagine it must frustrate them to constantly have someone in their ear.
Referees are human, so of course they'll make mistakes, but let's accept that and stop the Bunker analysing every single play.
Look at the fact hardly anybody whinges about the six-again rule. For me, I've never been a fan of it, but it's working OK. There might be a dozen six-again calls a game, as well as five or six penalties. That's nearly 20 infringements, if the refs were blowing 20 penalties a match the whole world would be up in arms. Gus would be having a meltdown on 100% Footy.
They're not getting all those six-again calls correct, but because the game still flows people accept it. That's the attitude we have to have. Let the game flow, keep the Bunker out of it and trust the referees and the touch judges to do their jobs.
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