NRL football manager Graham Annesley attacked coaches and clubs who claimed they had only been told about the crackdown on high contacts on Magic Round Friday.
A number of fans and social media commentators throughout the weekend lamented why the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) would suddenly impose tougher penalties on players during the match’s flagship carnival in Brisbane.
Canterbury coach Trent Barrett told media he only found out about the crackdown “from our team manager on the way to our captain’s race”.
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But Annesley hit back at that claim on Monday, explaining that the NRL had in fact imposed the crackdown a week earlier in the ninth inning, only for the referees to not implement it properly.
Annesley pointed out an email from NRL Headquarters on May 5 – which foxsports.com.au can confirm – which informed the clubs that the ARLC wanted more sins, penalties and high contact shipments, as well as repeat infractions six times.
When match officials failed to properly implement the Round 9 crackdown, the NRL had to send a similar email a week later before the Magic Round.
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“There seems to be a bit of confusion around how it all came about, how much opinion the clubs had before the Magic Round, how long they had to prepare,” Annesley said on Monday.
“There have been several reports that clubs were made aware of this on their way to the captain’s races, literally on match day. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wanted to clear things up on this.
“I don’t know where this perception is that it suddenly popped up on clubs by surprise.”
Annesley was asked why the NRL referees did not understand the ARLC directive in the 9th inning and had to be called back again the following week.
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“I think there was a misunderstanding or a mismatch of intention,” he said.
“It is clear that we have informed the clubs, clearly we have informed the media and we have informed the referees. It just was not delivered in the manner intended by the Commission or management.
“Therefore (NRL CEO) Andrew Abdo and I had two sessions with the referees by videoconference last week, which we would never normally do … the message clearly was not accepted in the way that we wanted it delivered (the week before).
“Overall, we think the referees have lived up to expectations. The intention of the Commission Directive was materialized during Round 10 and will continue to be so in the weeks to come.
“This is not a one-round blitz. This type of contact with the head and neck should be avoided as much as possible of the game. “
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Throughout the weekend there were 14 trash cans, three expulsions, 25 players placed under report, of which 24 charges were laid by the match review committee.
Annesley agreed that a few incidents seen in the Magic Round were unnecessary, but was otherwise pleased with the referees’ action against foul play.
“Magic Round was hit because of what the players did,” he said.
“The referees responded to that. If these incidents do not occur, no one complains that the referees are acting because there is no action to be taken.
“I hope this is just one of those unusual peaks that we have. It’s obviously a large number, but hopefully it’s just one of those peaks that can’t really be explained, and next week it will come down again.
“It’s a shame that this happened at the Magic Round, it’s a shame that it happened on the weekend when the Commission announced that it was going to take a harsher view of this kind of thing on the pitch. .. but off the field, nothing has changed.
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