Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott believes that the tactics and antics of some players around the ruck to try and win penalties are damaging rugby league’s image: calling on referees to be tougher in not awarding penalties in such instances.
McDermott, speaking after Leeds’ 38-26 win over Hull which all-but secured second place in Super League, admitted he is frustrated by what he described as players “wiggling around on the floor” to try and win a penalty – a problem he says does not seem to be getting any better.
He refused to name any players he believed had done during Thursday night’s game, but says it is becoming a real problem for the sport.
He said: “If you’re a fan of the game, you want the game to be better than what it is. When a Hull player – and my players do it too; I don’t encourage it and I don’t think Lee Radford will either – gets tackled near his try-line in a tough situation, a part of the game where it can be won and lost, stands up and let go of the ball on one of my players’ backs, I can’t get across how damaging that is to the game.
“It’s almost like a doting mum enabling a spoilt child to carry on being spoilt. Everyone says the child has got the problem, but it’s the mum that is the problem because she won’t make a stand and be disciplined. Too many teams, week in, week out, don’t have to make an effort to get out of yardage.”
McDermott also admitted it concerns him how the antics will be viewed to new fans of the sport watching for the first time.
“I always imagine someone from Nottingham, Wales or Newcastle watching our sport; they might like it but they look at these big fellas wiggling around on the floor and the referee invariably gives them a penalty,” he said. “It’s a real blight on our game and I don’t think it’s improved for the last three or four years.”
When asked what can be done to kick it out of rugby league, he replied: “Referees, don’t wilt and award it. The more he wiggles around, the more he’s wasting time instead of playing it quick.
“There’s a few players whose sole aim is to gain a penalty for his team. I don’t know how good it’s doing the game and I don’t know how healthy it is – and that version of it was a problem today along with other readings of the game.
“You’re enabling cynical play so the answer is to not penalise them and get on with it. I don’t know how much of a spectacle it was today.”
However, McDermott refused to lay the blame squarely at the door of Thursday’s referee, James Child, adding: “I’m not having a crack at James Child. I’m not even having a crack at the head of the referees. This lack of clarity about what happens in the ruck has been a problem for a long time – and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”