New interpretation of obstruction rule could lead to more players ‘diving’

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, a member of the NRL’s competition committee, said he was not consulted about the shift towards black-and-white policing of obstruction, as he voiced his fear the new interpretations would lead to more simulation.

”One thing about our game that separates it from soccer, if you like, is no one dives,” Cleary said after the Panthers had a try to five-eighth Tom Humble denied against Gold Coast after an obstruction.

”At the moment, it’s encouraging people to … I’m not casting aspersions on anyone, but the fact is, the rule at the moment, if you’re a defender, and you’re not looking to run into someone, then you’re probably not doing your job. Those plays have been in the game for a long time, but at the moment, it’s almost impossible to put a second-man play on. So many good things are happening as far as the referees go, but that one, it needs addressing. You can’t have black-and-white decisions. There’s no such thing in our game.”

With Wayne Bennett, Tim Sheens, Laurie Daley and John Lang, Cleary debated interpretation changes with new referees boss Daniel Anderson in the off-season as a member of the competition committee. Yet he maintained the stricter policing, whereby a try is disallowed when a defender is obstructed anywhere on the field, was not discussed during his time at NRL headquarters. ”Honestly, I can’t remember anything being spoken about that this is going to be black and white, at any meeting I’ve been to,” he said.

”[But] I haven’t been privy to everything that’s happened.”

He said he would be voicing opposition to it when the committee met again later in April.

”Some of the rulings of late have been really bad,” he said. ”Black-and-white decisions have been made for something that is not black and white.” Cleary made it clear he was not talking specifically about the decision that went against his side. Panthers forward Sika Manu made the job of video referees Steve Chiddy and Jared Maxwell rather simple when he obstructed Greg Bird. ”Watching the last few weeks, that’s what’s going to happen,” Cleary said. ”[But] we’ve got to fix it up.”

Titans coach John Cartwright added: ”As soon as I saw the replay, you knew straight away it was going to be disallowed. That’s the way it’s being adjudicated at the moment.

”It’s a complex situation … As long as they’re consistent with it, and they stick with it, and we know that going into the game. But it’s going to get very hairy if a big game is decided by that type of incident.”

Bird described the interpretations as ”confusing”, but said he did not deliberately run into Manu. ”Falling over’s the last thing on your mind, it’s more trying to get to the bloke with the ball,” he said.

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