NRL players have got the referees hook, line and sinker.
A wink from Eels star Clint Gutherson has exposed an emerging trend of players staying down in a bid to stop the game and give their teammates a chance to catch their breath.
The Parramatta fullback was called out on NRL 360 Wednesday night with suggestions the livewire star had support from coaching staff to find an opportunity to slow the game down.
Gutherson successfully created a stoppage when he went to ground following blind-sided contact during the Eels win over the Storm.
The referee stopped the game to allow the Eels’ trainer to check on Gutherson’s health.
Accusations from NRL commentators Phil Rothfield and Paul Kent on Monday night claimed Gutherson even winked to a teammate about his dive.
“I am concerned this week about time-wasting in the NRL,” Rothfield told Fox League.
“Coaches have to find a way to beat fatigue. So in my view, players are going down. Referees are stopping games. Clint Gutherson did a big wink after this incident… (NRL football boss) Graeme Annesley said the game shouldn’t have been stopped. The Melbourne Storm blew up about it. There was talk that at half time the Storm said, ‘Well if you’re going to let Gutho do this, we’ll do it too’. And you know what? (Ryan) Papenhuyzen went down a couple of times.”
Kent said there were several other examples of it during Round 2.
“The players are conning the referees,” he said.
“The referee just needs to say, play on. Get out of the defensive line and play on.”
Under the NRL rule changes announced in December a player must spend at least two minutes on the sideline if a trainer calls on the referee to stop the game as a result of a player needing medical attention.
However, players appear to be getting around the rule by convincing referees to stop the game instead, when they are not required to be taken from the field for that time.
Players can also be interchanged as a result of a trainer calling for the referee to stop the game.
Earlier, Kent also took aim at Storm star Felise Kaufusi and the NRL’s failure to hand him a lengthy suspension for his swinging elbow tackle which knocked Eels forward Ryan Matterson out cold.
Kaufusi is facing a three-game ban despite being allowed to stay on the field after he knocked Matterson with a falling elbow that sandwiched Matterson’s head between his arm and the turf.
“I thought it was disgraceful, gutless and I thought the NRL showed no courage at all,” Kent said.
“A two-week penalty for that? I think we have been talking for some years now about concussion and the safety of the player and the long-term damage caused by knockouts and yet we see an incident like this. He doesn’t get sent off or ten in the sin bin.
“He gets a report and he gets a two-week penalty and then you get the coach for saying there’s not much in it. It’s a cheap shot and I don’t like cheap shots.”