NRL Hits and Misses: Dodgy ploy has dire repercussions

With Round 18 of the NRL complete we take a look at Joey Manu's fake injury ploy, a costly Eels fade, death threats to Mitchell Moses, a sublime performance from Latrell Mitchell and a blatant shoulder charge which escaped notice.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.


How will the Roosters react to an injured player being smashed?

Joseph Manu has come under the spotlight for appearing to fake a knee injury before setting up a late try in the Roosters thumping of the Dragons. With the Roosters on the attack just inside Dragons territory Manu ran back to clean up a loose Connor Watson pass. As he came up with the ball he stopped in his tracks and clutched at his right knee. Commentator Andrew Voss feared for the worst, and the pursuing Dragons defenders hesitated. Manu took advantage of that split second and took off between them, before putting a kick ahead which was chased down by centre Paul Momirovski, who grounded to ball to take the score to 46-26.

You have to wonder how Manu and Roosters coach Trent Robinson will react next time one of their players has a genuine injury and is belted by defenders not prepared to risk the same embarrassment. It is the classic "boy cries wolf" situation and it plays at the decency of all players, who generally back off when a fellow player is injured. Coaches everywhere will now be in their players' ears making sure they don't fall for a similar stunt from Manu or others. It was a thoughtless piece of play, one that could have far-reaching detrimental consequences.

Eels' fade leaves punters feeling empty

If you happen to be a betting man, you would not have enjoyed being on the Eels against the Warriors if you took either the line at -15.5 or the margin of 13+. With only five minutes remaining in Friday night's game, the Eels were covering both comfortably, with a 28-6 lead.

They then managed to clock off, allowing the Warriors two late tries with Shaun Johnson converting each from out wide. They even managed to be caught offside during the kick-off in between tries, with at least one player a good three metres in front of the kick. It was enough to make the casual punter throw the remote at the screen (don't worry, it missed - it was one of those nights).

Moses death threats completely unacceptable

Mitchell Moses was escorted on and off the field on Friday night and fans passed through metal detectors on their way into Commbank Stadium, because of a series of death threats made against the Eels halfback. Details of the threats are being withheld, but Moses did admit they also involved family members.

"It was a bit tough, a bit tough for my family," Moses told Triple M.

"I just had a couple of threats heading towards my family ... about me and about the game ... they put pretty much a threat on the game and myself.

"We cleared it up with the NRL and they looked after me and escorted me in to the game and looked after me ... they handled the situation pretty well and I felt pretty safe."

Unfortunately the game of rugby league, like most professional sports, no longer exists merely for public entertainment. The proliferation of sports betting means results and margins are affecting the winning and losing of large sums of money, and not all of it just from honest blokes having a flutter.

There is no evidence, to my knowledge, that the threats towards Moses were in anyway linked to sports betting or criminal activities, they might just as well have come from a passionate, mentally unstable Eels fan. But, as the previous section of this article noted, actions on the ground can have financial consequences off it. Whatever the reasons behind these threats, they are simply unacceptable and those responsible need to be caught and suitably punished.

Are we looking too closely?

The microscope was out in the bunker over the weekend. The Broncos appeared to have wrapped up their game against the Titans with 17 minutes to go when forward Zac Hosking crashed over off a brilliant Adam Reynolds pass. With Brisbane players and fans celebrating the 20-12 lead, the referee summoned the bunker to have another look at the grounding. Several slow motion replays under an electron microscope revealed the ball in Hosking arm scraped a blade of grass before he lifted and promoted it over the line. It was technically a double movement, even though he finished well over the line through momentum.

Seven minutes later with the Titans on the attack looking to level the scores, Toby Sexton put through a brilliant curling grubber kick which bounced into the arms of the pursuing Phillip Sami. With the Titans and their fans celebrating, the referee called in the bunker once again. This time there was a microscopic slip of the ball as he went to ground it -- no try.

On Sunday evening Jahrome Hughes had a similar issue when chasing a Cameron Munster chip into the in goal area. What looked good enough to be a try was sent to the bunker's microscopes to find the slightest of separation. Then with under five minutes left in the game, Xavier Savage looked to have wrapped up the upset win for the Raiders, but a similar grounding issue was pulled up by the bunker again.

Fans of the game would have been happy enough for all four tries to be awarded. As the saying goes, they have been tries since 1908.


Mitchell's magic could have helped the Blues

What a devastating performance we witnessed from Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Mitchell looked like a man playing in the under 12s, so commanding was his effort. With the ball he was nigh on unstoppable, throwing defenders from his path as he scored and set up tries. The Bulldogs had no answers for his dominance, and he looks set to cause havoc as Souths make a run deep into the finals.

What a pity he wasn't available for selection for New South Wales last week. Sure, the Queensland defence might have an edge on the Bulldogs, but Mitchell's presence in a Blues jersey would have added so much more venom to their backline. The way he toyed with Matt Burton on Sunday suggested he was letting him know he wanted his centre spot back. You have to wonder though, whether Brad Fittler would have been clever enough to pick Mitchell, had he not ruled himself out.

"It was the hardest decision I've had to make," Mitchell said. "I wanted to pay the club forward. I didn't want to be selfish in that space where the club has invested so much in me.

"I really wanted to turn up tonight and prove a point and I think I did.

"It was hard to watch (the Blues lose) but (Queenslander) Jai Arrow is my teammate and I'm glad he got the win."

What's a shoulder only hit called?

With three minutes remaining in the first half of Melbourne's loss to Canberra, Raiders winger James Schiller was headed for the corner on the end of a slick backline movement. As he started to dive towards the line he was taken out by a purple missile in the shape of Justin Olam. He was hit so hard that he landed four metres over the sideline, on the artificial grass verge.

It was a spectacular, try-saving play, which had the home crowd and Storm players roaring in approval. But was it a legal play under the current rules? Olam at no point extended his arms to make a tackle. His right arm was tucked at his side as he made contact with that shoulder. There was no contact with Schiller's head, so no alarm bells rang, but it was a classic shoulder charge by definition. It should have at least been pulled up and penalised; not because it was particularly dangerous, not because you could expect much more from a desperate cover defender, not even because it was ugly, but simply because the NRL introduced the shoulder charge rule and fans expect to see consistency in these rulings.

It turned out to be a mixed night for Schiller, who later scored a brilliant individual try. Grubbering from five metres out, he ran on the outside of the corner post before grounding his foot in the in goal area, gathering the ball and planting it for the four-pointer which at the time regained the lead for the Raiders. Unfortunately he left the field not long after, with a badly twisted ankle.

Meanwhile no charges were laid against Olam, whilst Jordan Rapana was charged with a grade 1 shoulder charge for a hit to the head which saw him sin binned during the game. If you are only going to be charged for shoulder charges that hit the head, then the shoulder charge ban is not needed, as contact to the head has always been illegal.