What a week!!! The issues this week have been wide-ranging and far-reaching, from the pride jersey debacle at Manly to the NRL's awful explanation of the Wests Tigers robbery and a new precedent for head clashes.
We tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.
If you really champion inclusiveness, you can't accept the boycott
REAL: Manly took to the field last night without seven first grade players, after they refused to pull on the club's pride jersey. The strip, designed to promote inclusiveness, included rainbow-coloured stripes instead of the usual white ones.
Manly, who are struggling to remain in the running for a spot in the finals, were understandably beaten by the visiting Roosters, but their statement of inclusiveness was duly made. Or was it?
The seven players will resume their duties next week, their statement of non-acceptance just as firmly made. They are either fundamentally wrong and represent all that you are fighting to overcome, or you continue to accept their antiquated views of how society should be. In Manly's attempt to grandstand their inclusiveness, they have now highlighted just how okay they really are with non-acceptance.
On the same day that Aboriginal senator Jacinta Price used her maiden speech to state that she wanted to move on from "pointless virtue signalling and focus on the solutions that bring real change, that changes the lives of Australia's most vulnerable citizens," we had Manly players take the field in rainbow striped jerseys. How much did that actually achieve in terms of improving acceptance and inclusion? It seems pretty hollow if you don't back up your symbolism with real action.
If the NRL is serious about inclusiveness, moments like this should be used to weed out those that stand in opposition. They should be shown the door, making it perfectly clear to all that the NRL is a modern, progressive organisation, not willing to collude with their divisive stance.
If not, these jerseys and all similar statements are nothing more than rainbow-coloured wallpaper, sloppily placed over an ugly homophobic crack in the NRL wall.
Annesley explained the challenge perfectly
NOT REAL: Graham Annesley's feeble attempt to justify the Cowboy's late captain's challenge in the game against the Tigers was nothing short of an insult to the intelligence of the rugby league public. To state that the ruling wasn't covered anywhere in black and white, but was in the spirit of the captain's challenge is utter garbage and says so much about the raft of hastily cobbled together rule changes we have suffered in recent years.
It is either in the rules or it is not. The rules currently state that there must be a stoppage that will result in a "structured restart" before you can make a captain's challenge. Annesley ridiculously stated that the penalty awarded for the escort was that structured restart. He must have a pretty low estimate of the intelligence of his audience to think that is going to be accepted. There was no penalty for an escort, until after they were allowed the challenge.
When the rule was read out word-for-word, Annesley closed down the line of questioning by suggesting the journalist was dealing in semantics.
Annesley insisted that all was good, because the intention of the rule was always to make sure refereeing errors didn't effect the outcome of the game. So, throw out the rules for this particular instance, because in the end, all everyone really wants is for the correct decisions to be made. Of course in the very next breath he reminded us that in this case the bunker got the call horribly wrong. Something that he refused to apologise for, because these mistakes are never intentional and they get it right most of the time.
You could not make up the rubbish we are being fed. It is time for drastic action at NRL headquarters, I'd suggest an apology and resignation from Annesley could be a good place to start.
Finucane deserved to be suspended for head clash
REAL: Sharks forward Dale Finucane was found guilty by the judiciary of dangerous contact and suspended for two weeks following a head clash incident with Penrith's Stephen Crichton. Finucane charged out of the defensive line at Crichton, intent on lifting his team with a big hit. The two came together, Finucane spun after contact with his arms flailing, the clash of heads resulted in a nasty mangled ear for Crichton.
Despite a lengthy stoppage in play and a bunker review of the collision, the ball was simply handed to Nathan Cleary to get on with the game, as Finucane stood at marker discussing his innocence. Head clashes have always been treated as an unfortunate part of the game, sometimes unavoidable. But could Finucane have avoided this head clash? Clearly yes.
Finucane may not be a dirty player, but in his attempt to make a statement against the Panthers, he got it horribly wrong. In recent times rugby union has placed the responsibility for avoiding such head clashes squarely on the defender. Finucane simply had to lower his point of contact, a driving tackle to the midriff of Crichton just as effective, and far less dangerous. The damage to the lives of players, both short and long term is too great to allow this kind of collision to go unchecked. Now what we need to see is consistency from the NRL, as an important precedent has been set.