Why applying the letter of the law is cramping the game’s style – Luke Gale

AS A fan of the game myself, I know one of the things people like about rugby league is the way players don’t roll around feigning injury.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 6:00 am
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Leeds Rhinos' Alex Mellor touches down to scores against Wigan last week. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

Even when a player’s hurt, they tend to try and carry on with the action – if they can – and I think that’s something that should be applauded.

The reason I have been thinking about this is the incident in last week’s match against Wigan, when Alex Mellor had cramp, tried to play the ball and was penalised for not getting to his feet.

I had my head in my hands when I saw that – and not just because I am a Leeds player and it was my team who were penalised.

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KICKING KING: Leeds Rhinos' Luke Gale kicks the winning drop goal against Huddersfield Giants last season. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

I am not having a go at that particular referee, but I think match officials should be able to apply common sense when things like that happen.

Unfortunately, everything that goes on in a game is treated as black and white, but sometimes there are grey areas and that was one of them.

Should Alex have laid on the floor like a footballer, waiting for his mate to come over and stretch his leg, slowing the game down and causing a minute’s delay?

Or is it better for him to stand up the best he can and play the ball?

LATE DRAMA: Castleford's Gareth O'Brien kicked the winning drop goal in golden point extra time against Hull KR in the Challenge Cup. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

No-one has got an advantage from that and I think the ref’ has to look at the situation and use his discretion.

As it turned out, we’d have been a lot better off if Alex had stayed on the deck and got treatment, because he was punished for trying to get on with the game.

They scored in the next set and I am not saying we’d have come back and won but it obviously was a big moment in the contest.

I’ve watched it back and you can clearly see Alex has got cramp.

He has his leg straight and because he has not stood up fully, the official has deemed it an incorrect play-the-ball.

If there’s three men on him and he has played it incorrectly and got a quick play-the-ball – and his team has got an advantage from that – then that’s different and I could understand the decision, but the call the other day just penalised a player who was trying to do the right thing, in my opinion.

The game has to move forward and I am all for tinkering with rules if it makes our sport better, but the laws have to be applied in a sensible way.

There have been a lot of close games so far this season, with a couple of Super League matches and a Challenge Cup tie decided by golden point. You might not be too surprised to learn that’s an innovation I really like.

I know people say if a team have equalised at the end of a game they deserve a point, but I don’t see it that way.

When we played Huddersfield last year we were 20 down and came back and got level in the last few minutes, but I wouldn’t have wanted to settle for that and one point – I’d want to go for the win.

Maybe I feel like that because I haven’t been on the losing side in a golden-point game, but I think it adds to the excitement and you want a result one way or the other.

I didn’t see the Hull-Warrington game the other day, when there was no score in extra-time, but I did watch the Hull KR v Cas one.

In both games there were a lot of missed attempts to get a one-pointer to win it but – and I think they’d be the first to admit this – that was down to poor kicking by the players concerned.

Cas and Hull KR played 19 minutes extra before Gareth O’Brien managed to knock over the decisive kick.

I’ve had a joke with a few of the Cas boys, saying it wouldn’t have gone on that long if I had been playing.

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