Ricky Stuart avoided commenting on the call. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Ricky Stuart avoided commenting on the call. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Cronk ‘shocker’ steals limelight from Green Machine

CONTROVERSIAL he may be, but Ricky Stuart deserves the respect of the rugby league public - and their admiration - for the manner in which the Canberra coach outwardly accepted the dud call against his team on grand final night.

But while the Raiders, and their supporters, can whinge all they like about that tough call, the Green Machine was not robbed. They simply copped a bad decision.

During the 393 NRL matches played in season 2019, each would almost certainly have had a referee call that could have been construed as incorrect, or at least contentious. And who knows - some may have cost a team a finals berth, and ultimately the premiership.

Referees are human, and as such will never be perfect. Their iffy decisions are called the rub of the green.

The two howlers in the grand final were - obviously - the change of mind on the six-again call against the Raiders, and the sin binning of Cooper Cronk. One was unfortunate; the other a shocker.

 

Referee Ben Cummins signals last tackle after changing his mind.
Referee Ben Cummins signals last tackle after changing his mind.

Yes, lead referee Ben Cummins clearly made a boo boo signalling six again with the scores 8-6 to the Roosters, and Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton no doubt immediately reacted to that.

But, having viewed the replay a number of times, I'm still not convinced Wighton wasn't aware of the instantaneous change of call before he was tackled.

Whether the Raiders would have gained an advantage from the correct decision - final tackle ruled immediately - is anyone's guess.

Just as it is anyone's guess if Josh Papalii was prevented from scoring by the millisecond early tackle from Cooper Cronk.

But losing a player of Cronk's status for 10 minutes in a grand final is, without doubt, a far greater penalty than dying with the ball on the final tackle.

 

Cooper Cronk is sent to the sin bin by Ben Cummins. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Cooper Cronk is sent to the sin bin by Ben Cummins. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The sin binning was the shocker.

And, while I'm having a dig at the army of gripers, has everyone ignored the fact that when the Soliola charge down struck the Roosters trainer early in the match, Luke Keary had his legs taken from under him?

Raiders fans cried foul about the decision to give the scrum feed to the Roosters, but a penalty would have been the correct call.

Perfection out in the middle we will never achieve, and we are fools if we expect that.

But those who run the game can take steps to make sure these blunders happen less often.

And the first step is to revert to one referee.

The second step is to have no-one in his or her ear, unless they seek assistance.

With both bungled calls at the weekend, the lead referee made a decision based on unsolicited advice from his assistant. And with the Cronk sin binning the video referee, not the man in charge, made the big call.

In other sports - cricket and tennis, for instance - technology may be a winner.

But in rugby league it has caused nothing but drama. Too many cooks are certainly spoiling the footy broth.

We need to return to the days when one referee was in total control, and lived and died by his decisions.

And while it won't prevent bad calls, it will hopefully limit incidents like those which blackened a truly gripping NRL grand final.