Jenna Brooks looks at the controversy from the second week of the NRL finals, plus details of what’s being dubbed the ‘Battle of Britain’.
Controversy reigns in semi-finals
Friday’s elimination semi-final saw 10 tries scored and three yellow cards, culminating in a controversial exit for Manly Sea Eagles at the hands of South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Manly led by six points with 13 minutes to go, when Jake Trbojevic was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul – tugging the jersey of Dane Gagai, who was a support runner on a Rabbitohs break which could have finished in a try.
While Trbojevic watched from the sidelines, the Bunnies scored twice to claim the 34-26 win and their place in the Grand Final qualifier.
Manly coach Des Hasler was left fuming after questioning the match official’s decision.
“Do I think we were dudded? Yep, I think we were dudded,” Hasler said. “The call on Jake in the second half was a bit tough. Was it a penalty? I don’t mind a penalty. I can handle a penalty.
“Did he deserve to get sent off? No, I didn’t think he deserved to get sent off. You don’t want to see the game coming down to crucial calls like that.”
The NRL’s head of football, Graham Annesley, has defended the Sea Eagles coach and doesn’t believe he should be fined for his comments.
“I don’t think Des was casting aspersions on the integrity of the referees when he made that comment,” Annesley said. “People use different terms to express their disappointment with decisions.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with Des and he does not agree this should have been a sin-bin. He thinks the decision is wrong. But do I think he was reflecting on the integrity of the officials? No, I don’t.”
In the aftermath of the controversial decision, Annesley hasn’t ruled out bringing back five-minute sin-bins.
“I can see a case for it,” Annesley said. “Even incidents that go to the sin-bin… Some are more serious than others, yet they all get 10 minutes. I can see there’s potentially an argument for that.
“I’m open to it. I agree not everything is the same.”
Ready for ‘Battle of Britain’
After a week off, Canberra Raiders will host South Sydney on Friday in a game being dubbed ‘The Battle of Britain’.
The Rabbitohs boast three Englishmen – all bearing the Burgess name – and their coach is Wayne Bennett, also the man in charge of the England and Great Britain national teams.
As for Canberra, they have Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton in the squad, plus former Salford Red Devils and Castleford Tigers forward Ryan Clayton on the backroom staff as a strength and conditioning coach.
If Sutton plays, seven Englishmen will take to the pitch on Friday – something which has never been seen before in an NRL premiership match.
It’s the biggest home game in Canberra’s history – the Raiders’ first home NRL preliminary final – and the club are expecting a record crowd of 28,000.
If Ricky Stuart’s men can beat South Sydney, they will be through to their first Grand Final since winning the old NSWRL Premiership in 1994.
Canberra Raiders vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
September 27, 2019, 10:45am
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Bennett, meanwhile, said he has enormous respect for the English players he has coached in the Canberra side.
“There will be a fair bit on the line with those guys – I know their competitiveness and what they all bring,” Bennett said. “It will be a great occasion and I’m just pleased to be there.”
Wigan set for Canberra clash
It looks like Wigan Warriors will take on Canberra in a trial match early next year.
If the game goes ahead it will mean George Williams is likely to take on his former side in his first game for his new club. It could also be George Burgess’ first run-out for the Warriors.
The only thing to stop this game from going ahead would be if Canberra seal the NRL title and Wigan successfully defend their Super League crown, as both teams would face off in the World Club Challenge anyway.
“I’ll obviously take more interest in it after this season, but I’d love the opportunity to repay our English boys by taking them home for a trial match in front of their family and friends,” Raiders coach Stuart said.
“We’ll make it work. That’s what we would do for the boys.”
Burgess punished for comments
Sam Burgess has accepted responsibility and apologised for labelling the NRL’s judiciary a ‘kangaroo court’.
The England international met with NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, who issued him with a breach notice and handed down a suspended fine of £5,400.
“The chairman and members of the panel are of the highest integrity and it was never my intention to cast any doubt over their character,” Burgess said in a statement.