You’re Right, You Actually Didn’t Lose That Game

Last weekend the Penrith Panthers beat the Cronulla Sharks 21-20 in extra time.

Both teams were missing a whole host of players and while the Sharks sit many places above the Panthers on the ladder, this contest looked to be evened out by a number of factors, the biggest of which was the Sharks poor form.

It was a good game of footy with a crazy finish. The Sharks stormed back to seemingly seal the win with a 77th minute try only to see the Panthers score seconds before full time and then in extra time claim the win with a Luke Walsh field goal.

Watching the entire contest, both teams had their chance to win this game. In fact in the last five minutes you could honestly have said “Wow, Penrith let this one slip” followed “Wow, Cronulla let this one slip” and have been totally accurate in your assessment of the game.

After the match, the Panthers were obviously pretty happy. Shark Park is a hard place to win at, they had come from behind in the dying seconds to force extra time and snatched a win in clinical fashion. It was something positive in what has been a tough season.

For the Sharks, it was another worrying loss. They had every right to be disappointed. This was a really bad loss on the end of a terrible run on form that now see’s them in danger is missing the Finals Series all together.

Of course, this was all the referee’s fault according to Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. In fact, from the minute Luke Walsh calmly slotting over the game winning field goal until even a few hours ago, he has done nothing but whinge about the officiating of the game, clinging to a couple of decisions, going over every single incident with a fine tooth comb to try and come to the conclusion that the Sharks didn’t actually lose this game at all.

He has even suggested that there needs to be a completely different system in place to review incidents during the game, controlled by coaches of course!

This is a pathetic trend that has now become common place in the game. Every single team does it. Every single coach does it. No one loses games any more, they get fucked out of the by the referees.

According to Cronulla completed and incredible 85% of their sets. They forced the Panthers to make 383 tackles compared to their own 293. To lose a game from there, on those statistics alone, you have a few problems of your own you need to deal with before the referees come under the microscope!

This all of course comes back to the mentality of coaches in the NRL, which is a subject I have talked about quite a bit. These days I normally ignore what coaches have to say because the line is always the same. Their team is not going as well as everyone is saying, the refereeing was poor, decisions are going against them, they need a siege mentality and you can find out who is playing an hour before the next game kicks off.

Coaches hate variables they have no control over. Obviously an individual on the playing field who is completely independent and who makes decisions that can determine possession and field position is a pretty big variable.

Forget about these decisions being right or wrong, the fact that they are out of the coaches control is all that matters.

Even if you look at recent proposals that a player concussed in a high tackle should be allowed to be replaced by a fresh 18th player, that is the coaches once again trying to remove another variable from the game. They hate things they can not plan for! (By the way if that proposal was allowed to come in, coaches would abuse it. If I player was hit high in the second half he would be told to stay down, come from the field as a free interchange as happens already but he would be replaced by a completely fresh set of legs…..all controlled by the coach)

At the end of the day, who are these coaches trying to convince?

The score board doesn’t change. A result has never been changed. Their teams form doesn’t get a boost out of it and it doesn’t make their fans feel any better. Some would argue that its pressure on the referees that will hopefully lead to better decisions going their way in future games, but does that really work? Does anyone honestly think that while refereeing a game the bloke with the whistle is thinking about the good or bad calls the teams in the field have got in previous weeks? He’s got better things to do!

I could honestly do without hearing from coaches at all these days. Just shut up and coach the team. They never say anything interesting anyway. They are so paranoid about giving anything away that they just trot out the same old lines every single time.

The problem is, a coach Shane Flanagan can turn a feels good story like the Sharks resurgence this season into a negative. This week, he has come off as nothing but a whinger and a sore loser. That does nothing at all for his club, a club that I’m sure many supporters from other teams would have been happy to see do well in the finals if their own side couldn’t be there.

I’ve always said coaches are a different sort of animal. If you look at the best coaches in the game, how many of them look like they would be the life of the party? How many of them do you think stay calm when the traffic lights turn green, then quickly turn red before they have got through an intersection. How many of them do you think laugh when they tell you a story about a big bet that didn’t turn out going their way?

It takes a certain type of personality to be a great coach. Obsessive, paranoid….and when things don’t go their way, they don’t react well at all.

There is a fine line between disappointed and coming across as a sore loser. This week I think it is not just the Olympic swimming pool that has shown stark examples of the latter.

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