Origin is the toughest of rugby league arenas – but that doesn’t mean foul play should go unpunished when a similar act would warrant a penalty in the NRL, says Petero Civoniceva. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
After the incident between Paul Gallen and Nate Myles last week in the State of Origin opener, it is time the NRL made a decision on what direction they want to take the game.
A lot of what has happened in Origin in the past has stayed on the field and there is no doubt interpretations have always been a little bit watered down but I'm wondering how much longer this can continue to be the case.
How long do we keep on letting people get away with things in Origin that they would never normally get away with? Do we need to get to a situation where someone is seriously hurt?
I would have thought Paul Gallen should have at least spent some time in the sin bin. If it happened in the NRL I have no doubt he would have been sent to the bin. That goes for any player – be they from NSW or Queensland – that commits foul play. What happens from there is up to the match review committee but it is important for our game to draw a line in what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.
This is even more important in Origin because the game draws such a huge audience and is such a massive game. You don't want to be turning people off seeing something that would normally be properly penalised in an NRL match. For whatever reason our game has been reluctant to apply the same standards to Origin but it's time the rules are tightened up to normal NRL standards. We don't want people talking about an incident like this once the game is over; we want them talking about the speed, athleticism and toughness of the game, not the foul play.
Paul Gallen has actually raised a very valid point in the days since the game when he suggested that if the incident warranted him being suspended, Channel 9 shouldn't use it in future to promote State of Origin. Again, we're talking about the direction we want to take the game. No doubt there is a certain section of our fans that love seeing that sort of stuff but we need to look at how we grow our game and appeal to a wider audience. Maybe that's something that we really need to address?
If we are going to make a stand towards saying no to violence in our game then we can't have the double standard of penalising a player for doing it but then at the same time using it to promote the game. That's something that needs to be addressed. Our audience for Origin isn't just national, it's international and you would hate to turn people away by failing to make a stand on what's right and what's wrong in our game.
I feel sorry for the Parramatta players that were told in front of teammates last week that their services won't be required beyond 2013. I understand that the playing group was put on notice when Ricky Stuart was appointed and there was an expectation of what their performance had to be. But you'd like to think players would be spoken to individually before a decision like that was handed down. It sounds pretty harsh to me. To have to stand in front of your peers like that would have been very difficult.
Our jobs are performance driven and if you're not getting the right results there is always going to be pressure on your appointment to the club. There would have been no doubt among the playing group that their performances were below par and that they needed to lift if they wanted to make the coach and the club happy.
That hasn't happened; but personally I would have hated to be told in that way. If anything you would think that a player would be sat down and spoken to face to face. To be told in that way is a bit disappointing.
So what now for the Eels?
Well, the playing group has to be able to respond to adversity. You only find strength in a playing group when everyone stands together and fights for the same thing which is to win and play well. You'd like to think that the senior playing group at the club will have addressed the players that are going to have to play for the rest of the season and make sure that when they walk onto the field they are doing it for the club and their teammates. They need to find a way to make a positive out of what is obviously a very difficult time for the Parramatta club.