OPINION

No excuse for NRL bunker's poor performance

SUSPENDED: Laurie Daley says without Latrell Mitchell, South Sydney won't win the premiership. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
SUSPENDED: Laurie Daley says without Latrell Mitchell, South Sydney won't win the premiership. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

It happened in a split second - a tackle gone horribly wrong that will heavily impact the title chances of two premiership heavyweights and left us without two of the game's big stars for the final series.

South Sydney, without Latrell Mitchell, won't win the premiership. Sydney Roosters, given their retirements and injuries, were probably not going to be a genuine threat anyway in the finals but without Joey Manu, they may not even get past week one.

The aftershocks of the Mitchell hit on Manu are still being felt. My take on it is this. Latrell's suspension for the rest of the season is completely justified. Whatever way you look at it, he got it badly wrong and illegally left Manu nursing a serious facial injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season as well. But I've got to say some of the fan commentary around the incident has been really poor. Anyone suggesting Latrell went in deliberately to try and maim Joey doesn't know what they are talking about. And the death threats to his partner are an absolute disgrace.

Latrell is a naturally aggressive player. He's big, and he's strong, and like we saw in Origin when he was up against his Souths' teammate, Dane Gagai, he loves to dominate the opposition with his aggression. It doesn't matter who it is. In this instance, as fullback, he would have seen the threat Manu posed out wide fairly close to the Souths' line and was coming across in defence like a freight train to try to stop him from scoring.

His problem was he failed to slow down, check himself and adjust at the crucial moment he came in contact with a slightly dipping Manu and we all saw the result. Well, maybe not all of us saw it, apparently.

Here was an incident the video referee should have immediately owned. Unfortunately, he didn't. Given how quickly it happened and the fact the play continued after it did, I can understand the on-field officials not reacting instantly. But there is no excuse for the bunker stuffing it up so badly.

Latrell should have been immediately sent off. There is absolutely no question the high contact warranted a send-off and a firm decision straight away would have taken most of the heat out of it. Instead, it was left to fester and that's why the after-shocks were so severe.

It's why an emotional Roosters coach Trent Robinson went nuclear in the post-match press conference at the same time as one of his star players was taken to hospital.

It would have cut the Roosters deep for Latrell to be just put in the sin bin for the incident, only to then come back out and rub the Roosters' noses in it by scoring a try and slamming the ball down petulantly after doing so.

In Robbo's case, I have to say I love people who speak their mind, so his emotional response to what happened was understandable because there is no question the bunker didn't do its job. But he did make it a little too personal and went too far, suggesting there has been a bias against his team this season from officials, which I'm sure isn't the case. The NRL had no option but to heavily fine him.

What I would say, is that Robbo was sticking up for his club and sticking up for and protecting his players. He has done a great job with the team under the toughest of circumstances this season and was already massively respected by his playing group. Maybe that level of respect has even gone up a notch after this.

Resting makes sense

Coaches are employed to get their sides into the finals and to make some noise when they get there. So, if that means resting your big names the week before to freshen them up a little and lessen the risk of injury when you are already guaranteed a top eight spot, then I don't have a problem with it.

In fact, it may turn out to be very beneficial for teams whose back-up players haven't been getting a game since relocating to Queensland. There is the possibility that with injuries, some of those players may get called on during the finals and coming in cold, with no footy under their belts in a big game, would be a huge ask.

Remaining games

SHARKS v STORM

The Sharks are playing for eighth spot but even though Melbourne have rested a heap, I still think they will put out enough quality to win here. My tip: Storm

PANTHERS v EELS

It's a funny game. Eels coach Brad Arthur was getting sacked three weeks ago and now his side could win the comp. You just shake your head. They won't win this one, though, with so many out. My tip: Panthers

BRONCOS v KNIGHTS

How long will the likes of Pearce and Ponga play in this one with nothing riding on the result? It's an interesting one and the game may end up being a tight one. My tip: Knights

COWBOYS v EAGLES

If the full Manly line-up plays and Tom Trbojevic is there, it will be Manly in a canter to wrap up fourth spot. My tip: Eagles

RABBITOHS v DRAGONS

The Dragons have had a terrible back-end to the season but if they don't have enough pride in the jersey to win this against a decimated Souths side, they are in more trouble than I think they are. My tip: Dragons

TITANS v WARRIORS

I've got nothing but admiration for the Warriors with everything they have been through and one thing is certain, they won't make it easy for the Titans. My tip: Titans

TIGERS v BULLDOGS

These two are playing for the 'Who Cares Cup' here. Two of the competition's big disappointments. My tip: Tigers