Monday Buzz: Dear Todd, don’t blow Origin I
MR Todd Greenberg, June 4, 2018
Chief Executive Officer, NRL Rugby League Central,
Driver Ave, Moore Park, NSW, 2021
I write to you on behalf of a nation of rugby league lovers in the countdown to our blockbuster State of Origin opener at the MCG on Wednesday night.
Four million fans, the largest television audience of the year, will tune in on Channel 9 to watch potentially one of the all-time Origin classics.
Freddy Fittler's revamped NSW Blues with 11 exuberant young debutants against the magnificent Maroons, who have dominated for too long.
Excitement machines across the park. Blistering speed and extraordinary skill. Plus the biggest hitters and most powerful men in our sport.
This is an appeal to let the game flow. To instruct the referees to drop the stubbornness, inflexibility and nitpicking that have been the lowlights of the season and turned the greatest game of all into a sometimes boring and stop-start snooze fest.
Don't let them ambush what should be a breathtaking sporting contest. We don't want to see a rugby union or NFL-type game with all their stoppages.
This year we have already had more penalty goals than the entire 2017 season. Average penalty counts have risen from 12.52 last year to 17.74.
That's an increase of more than 46 per cent.
This is not what rugby league and particularly our showpiece Origin event is about.
It became the greatest sporting show in Australia because of its spectacular, free-flowing, attacking football.
Plus the brutality of the contest.
Check out some of these penalty counts from the past.
In 1998, the greatest referee of all time, Bill Harrigan, blew just 14 penalties in the entire series. Twice he blew just three penalties in a game.
Even the biggest nark in State of Origin history, the controversial, late and great Queenslander Barry "Grasshopper" Gomersall, handed out just six penalties in game one in 1988.
The refereeing appointments of Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein for this year's series have been the most controversial in Origin history.
Your fans are outraged.
The No. 1 referee in the game, Matt Cecchin, is renowned for allowing games to flow. Under his watch there were just six penalties in Origin III last season.
Yet he has been inexplicably sacked for this game.
I respectfully ask that you instruct the referees to put their whistles away.
If a player is half a metre off side, who cares.
If there is a slightly dodgy play-the-ball, let it go.
We know the markers won't be perfectly square all night. Use common sense and just ping the really bad ones.
We want to see the explosive speed of James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell.
The wonderful creativity of Nathan Cleary and Jimmy Maloney.
We want to see 34 great rugby league players show why they have been chosen to represent their states on rugby league's biggest stage.
Just let the game flow.
STATE OF ORIGIN'S LOWEST PENALTY COUNTS
3: Bill Harrigan - 1998, Game 3
3: Bill Harrigan - 2002, Game 3
3: Tony Archer/Jared Maxwell - 2011, Game 3
5: Bill Harrigan - 1998, Game 3
5: Steve Clark - 2006, Game 2
5: Shayne Hayne - 2007, Game 1
6: Barry Gomersall - 1988, Game 1
6: Bill Harrigan - 1994, Game 3
6: Bill Harrigan - 1998, Game 2
6: Bill Harrigan - 2002, Game 3
6: Tony Archer - 2008, Game 1
6: Tony Archer/Shayne Hayne - 2009, Game 2
6: Matt Cecchin/Gerard Sutton - 2017, Game 1