Phil Gould's stunning tirade amid NRL finals 'embarrassment'

·5-min read
Pictured here, Phil Gould speaks before a State of Origin match in 2022.
Phil Gould says Sunday's NRL elimination final between the Rabbitohs and Roosters was an 'embarrassment' on the game. Pic: Getty

Phil Gould has savaged the officiating in Sunday's NRL elimination final between the Rabbitohs and Roosters, labelling it an "embarrassment" to the game.

Referee Ashley Klein issued an NRL record seven trips to the sin bin during the Rabbitohs' 30-14 win at Allianz Stadium, sparking backlash from many experts and fans.

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NRL head of football Graham Annesley on Monday defended Klein and the Bunker, instead pointing to a "disappointing" lack of discipline from both sides as the explanation for the mayhem.

However, Gould is having none of that after sensationally claiming that very few of the seven incidents actually warranted trips to the bin.

Two players - Victor Radley and Taane Milne - were sent to the bin twice during the wild contest, with fans and commentators insisting that it ruined the spectacle.

Radley's first sin-binning appeared to be for little more than roughing up his opposition player on the ground after a tackle.

His second trip came after Radley rushed in to defend a teammate after Tevita Tatola had used his palm to push at an opponent's head after drawing an error from a tackle.

Souths prop Prop Tom Burgess was sin-binned for a second high shot in as many minutes, having somewhat ironically escaped going to the bin for the first one that knocked out James Tedesco - the Roosters captain subsequently failing his HIA and not returning for the rest of the match.

Speaking on Channel 9’s 100% Footy on Monday night, Gould said the questionable first sin bin for Radley set the tone for what ultimately descended into farce.

"From the time they sent Victor Radley off in the first three minutes with an absolutely innocuous event the standard was set, and they decided that they would just forge on with it for the rest of the game to get that result,” Gould said.

“To me, that is an embarrassment to our code. Our code has embarrassed us a number of times over the last few seasons, but that was culminating to where I always feared it would get to.

“That was not a game of football. It was not a great advertisement of our game.

“I’ve been saying for 10 years that the Bunker was the thin end of a wedge that would end up destroying this game.

“You get a reaction like we have to HIA and concussion and the way we’re treating those and you get an oversensitive refereeing group.

“There’s obviously directions to the match review committee and to the Bunker on the way they think this game should be officiated, and it results in the frustration and everything that we saw.”

Referee Ashley Klein issued an NRL record seven sin-binnings on Sunday. Pic: Getty
Referee Ashley Klein issued an NRL record seven sin-binnings on Sunday. Pic: Getty

Paul Gallen wants the Bunker butt out of it

NRL great Paul Gallen said he agreed with Gould and reiterated the long-standing argument that the Bunker should only be used to officiate on try-scoring plays - not the all-encompassing role that it has morphed into.

“Everyone is talking about what a great spectacle it was – the crowd was great and the atmosphere was great, but it wasn’t a great game of footy,” Gallen said.

“There were so many stoppages and players laying down – that’s the part that is not a good look for the game. The game has done it to itself, I don’t blame the players for doing it – they are playing for keeps.

“If the referee and two touch judges can’t see anything wrong with the tackle, play on and let the game flow. I think the Bunker should be only brought in for try-scoring opportunities.

“The referee needs to take control of the game. Give the referee control of the game back. The match review committee gets him anyway (for a high tackle). We’ve got to accept the referees are human beings. They may make mistakes throughout the course of play.

“Besides Origin, this is one of the biggest rivalries in Australian sport, and we saw absolute rot on the field … it wasn’t good footy played at all.”

Annesley said the NRL felt their officials had been justified in handing out a record number of sin-bins.

Seen here, NRL head of football Graham Annesley speaks to reporters at a press conference.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley has defended the officials after Sunday's controversial match. Pic: Getty

"There was a lack of discipline by the players," he said.

"That's not in the hands of the match officials, that's in the hands of the players and how they approach the game...

"We saw a whole range of incidents that took place where the players frankly took those decisions out of the hands of the referees and the bunker.

"It was disappointing that we saw as many incidents in the game as we did."

Radley's punch on Milne was detected by the bunker in the fourth minute and set the tone in regards to both the brutality of the game and the repeated intervention from the off-field referees.

The clash was marked by stoppages so the bunker could review footage but Annesley said he was comfortable with the level of bunker involvement in the game.

"We have to try and find a happy medium where we're doing everything we can to minimise officiating errors while still maintaining the flow and the entertainment value of the game," he said.

"But we can't lose sight of the fact that yesterday was very unusual. I've not seen a game like it in recent history."

with AAP

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