Rugby league greats Phil Gould and Paul Gallen have failed to see eye to eye over whether the NRL’s struggling teams are getting a fair go from the referees.
NRL referees were put under the spotlight over the weekend when Cowboys coach Todd Payten suggested that teams who’d been at the “pointy end of the competition” consistently “get the benefit of the doubt too often” from match officials.
There were similar comments made in round one when Titans coach Justin Holbrook said his side wasn’t receiving its fair share of 50-50 decisions, declaring “it’s about us as a club not being one of the big clubs and not getting anything (from the referees).”
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Gould, a former premiership-winning coach and now the general manager of the Bulldogs, said he agreed with both coaches.
“I 100 per cent agree,” Gould said on Nine’s 100% Footy.
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“I know a coach, and I spoke about this last week, but I know a coach from one of the lower sides who actually rang [NRL head of football] Graham Annesley one day and just said we don’t get the rub of the green.
“Graham Annesley in his own words – that there is an intrinsic bias towards the better teams. There is an intrinsic, nit-picking of the lower teams.
“If you think about penalty blitzes we’ve had over the years, we can go for the first 10 weeks of the competition and have 25-30 penalties a game and they’re blitzing on everything. We get to the Origin and they have five or six penalties and it’s a 10 times better game.
“Their excuse is, ‘Well they’re better players, they don’t cheat’.
“Well of course they cheat, but that’s their excuse to stop the penalty blitz.
“What I’m saying is there is an intrinsic thing that the battling team or the lower team is doing something illegal to bring the top team back to the field. And he (Annesley) admitted it.”
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Gould’s comments weren’t to the liking of Gallen, who said the dominant sides in the competition got the rub of the green simply because they performed better out on the field with better players.
“I think the better teams do it better than the lower-ranked teams. They got better players and they do things better,” Gallen said.
“Maybe they do (cheat better), but they’re better players. They do things better than the other teams.
“You’re at the Dogs, so I can see you’re probably frustrated, particularly after the weekend.”
While the Bulldogs have just one win through four games, Gould quipped: “I’m not frustrated at all”.
Gallen pointed out the better on-field execution of the Storm and Panthers.
“They’ve got better players, they do things better,” Gallen said.
“They run the right hole. You don’t see the Penrith Panthers or the Melbourne Storm getting pulled up for shepherds like you would see with other teams, because they run the right hole, they do it properly.
“They practice it time and time after training… other teams don’t do that and that’s the problem, that’s why they get penalised.”
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