During last nights match between the Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs, Sam Burgess ran at the line, turned his back, passed the ball, and got absolutely smashed.
There was nothing wrong with the hit. It was a great hit. If you run at the line and turn your back on 13 humans looking to hit you as hard as they can in a tackle, you are going to have sore ribs for a week. That is life. That is Rugby League.
Burgess wasn’t happy with the hit, but he got up off the ground and did what any Rugby League player worth anything would do. He decided to take things out on the opposition in every single hit he made for the rest of the match.
Burgess put a number of Broncos players on the ground after that hit. Some of them were hit just after they passed the ball as he was. There was nothing wrong with any of his hits, but the referee decided to call Burgess and Greg Inglis over anyway.
Here is where things started to go wrong….
The Referee said to Burgess that all of his hits were legal, but he was flying pretty close to the line, and that if he kept it up or overstepped the mark, Burgess would find himself in the sin bin.
What the hell…
Burgess and Inglis has every right to tell the referee to settle down, get some composure, control his own emotions, and just call the game as he sees it. To blow the whistle if he sees illegal play, but outside of that, to keep his mouth shut and stop trying to inform players how they are supposed to play the game.
They didn’t though. They copped the referees strange advice on the chin and went back into the defensive line. Burgess however was visibly confused by the entire situation.
From that moment on the referee lost complete control of his emotions in what was a fiery game. The big crowd was in form, both teams were battling hard for the two competition points on offer, and the referee started to look flustered. That simply isn’t good enough. When officials start to get overwhelmed by the occasion, the NRL needs to look at having those officials control the worst games of the round.
There were a lot of big hits in this game. The vast majority of them were legal. Time after time the referee threatened to send players to the sin bin, much to the bemusement of players who knew they were not flouting the laws of the game.
Things exploded in the second half when Brisbane player Joe Ofahengaue dropped on a loose ball and simply laid there on the ground. He wasn’t tackled, no opposition player had laid a hand on him, the ball was live…Ofahengaue was fair game.
Seeing this, Sam Burgess tackled Ofahengaue, slamming him as he was on the ground in a good hard tackle. Broncos players didn’t appreciate the vigor with which Burgess smashed Ofahengaue, and no doubt driven on by the fact Burgess had been trying to belt them all game, they swarmed Burgess in the now familiar cuddlefest that has tainted the NRL since punching was banned.
When things settled down the referee, who was completely overwhelmed by this point, called over Burgess and penalized him for his “intent”.
Burgess did nothing illegal in the tackle. The tackle had to be made. Burgess did what every single Rugby League players should have done in that situation, he tackled Ofahengaue as hard as he possibly could in a legal tackle.
Sam Burgess got penalised for tackling Joe Ofahengaue too hard.
Is that what Rugby League has come to?
The NRL is the best of the best rugby players on earth battling it out every week in a brutal collision sport. This isn’t your local game of footy at the park, this isn’t a schoolyard, this isn’t touch football, this isn’t an arena that most people could survive in for more than a couple of minutes. These are highly trained, finely tuned athletes who get paid a lot of money to put their bodies on the line in every single game.
If you are a professional Rugby League player who is not pushing yourself and your game right to the very edge, you’re not even playing first grade.
Every single time NRL players go into a tackle, they are looking to hit the opposition player as hard as they possibly can. If you can’t handle that, don’t watch the game. You already don’t play the game, so just switch the TV off or stop attending matches. Rugby League is not for you.
There is a reason why players run in and congratulate a player when they blast and opposition player and lay them out on the ground in a legal tackle. That is what these players do for a living. They belt other humans into submission on a weekly basis. That is Rugby League.
Sam Burgess did nothing illegal at all when tackling Joe Ofahengaue. He hit him in a hard, effective tackle. The referee made a mistake, and the NRL should acknowledge as much this week when they review the match.
As for the match itself, I really enjoyed it. Brisbane looked so much better than South Sydney right out of the gate, but to South Sydney’s credit, they looked like they had brought themselves back into the match as things started to heat up.
By the time Adam Reynolds went from the field South were done. Reynolds was hit high in a tackle by Adam Reynolds after he had passed the ball. The contact point made the tackle illegal. The timing…it was a split second and while it may have been a touch late, it wasn’t late enough for the timing to be the reason for a penalty in my opinion.
If Reynolds has broken his jaw again, Souths are in big trouble this season. Things were bad enough anyway, Souths are just missing that defensive edge they had a few years ago, but without Reynolds ability to guide them around the park, Souths are no hope of having any impact this year, even accounting for them improving as the season goes on.
Corey Oats continued his impressive form in this match. As we watched him play brilliantly once again I couldn’t help but think he was the type of players Australian Rugby League should be pushing through State Of Origin and into the Australian side with an eye on the future of our Test team, rather than trying to recruit players born and raised elsewhere who we recruit with money to play in our representative teams.
Brisbanes impressive win was soured a little by a terrible looking injury to Andrew McCullough whose leg was not meant to bend that way. The initial diagnosis was a hyper-extended knee. That diagnosis was tempered a little as he cooled down in the sheds, however scans will reveal the full extent of his injury.
Souths didn’t do well out of this game on the injury front either with Reynolds jaw an issue (He clutched at it a few times during the match) and Hymel Hunt visibly distressed in the sheds early in the match after tearing his pectoral muscle and having his season already over as a result.
When Rugby League is played like this, when both teams give their all, when the drama and colour of Rugby League is there for all to see in all of its jarring glory, I love it. It is why I love Rugby League above all other sports. It is why Rugby League is the greatest game of all.
Its just a shame that our administrators are so intent on nerfing the sport, trying to package it up and a soft, safe package it can sell to uncommitted people who are just looking for excuses to write the game off anyway, and that that culture eventually effects referees who see good hard tackles as something we need to penalise.
I hope Sam Burgess, and every other player in the game, continues to fly close to the egde and looks to blast the opposition in every single tackle. It is why I love Rugby League. No referee should get in the way of that!
For the record, the Brisbane Broncos beat the South Sydney Rabbitohs 30-8 in front of 40,275 at Suncorp Stadium.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com