A decade of the arm pointed away from the Roosters

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The penalties the Roosters copped in the Manly Sea Eagles game over the weekend were, for the most part, deserved. The Roosters DID have hands on the ball, they were occasionally offside and some tackles crept high.

But what is good for the goose is not good for the gander apparently. In the battle of the birds, Manly were guilty of the exact same indiscretions yet were repeatedly warned about it — and not penalised.

The Roosters copped the refereeing version of the cane across the hands, and the Sea Eagles got the equivalent of an encouragement award.

Mitchell Pearce gets tackled late by Kieran Foran, and high. It was blatantly high, and blatantly late. No review comes despite a scrum being packed down, and no penalty. Six tackles later, Foran gets tackled high by Pearce.

Yep, penalty.

They allowed Jamie Buhrer to have the hands on the ball at least twice, and be offside as well. Cummins pulls him up on the first of both occasions and says “you’ve gotta fix it”. He does it again on both occasions, and he simply gets another warning.

Jake Friend was given three penalties without warning, for the same infractions.

Buhrer for some reason gets the benefit of the doubt like he’s some rookie playing his first game of footy — even though he’s played Origin and won a grand final. Yet Friend is not afforded the same luxury to flout the rules. It’s a penalty, instantly.


Source: Roosters.

Trent Robinson is as calm a coach as they come, and even he couldn’t hold back. Here’s what he told the throng of media after the game (via news.com.au):

“It was unacceptable from Ben Cummins,” Robinson said. “There were so many instances in that game. Boyd Cordner gets called for third man in, pocket ref (Gavin Reynolds) says it’s okay, Ben Cummins penalises. Pocket ref on another one says he’s holding on, he’s holding on. Ben Cummins says penalise it.

“He’s talked to Jamie Buhrer about being offside on the first tackle at a scrum on two occasions. Well, penalise it. He’s talked to Jamie Buhrer about hands in the ruck at a scrum … well penalise them. Mitchell Pearce gets head highed on a kick, that’s a penalty. Really simple rules that they have given to us … and they are coaching Manly to not give the penalties. It’s just unacceptable.”

If this were just one game, you’d perhaps give Cummins the benefit of the doubt. But the Roosters also lost the penalty count under his watch against Souths, 12-6. That’s a difference of 15 penalties against under his watch this year alone.

And lets not forget when he gave Souths the penalty after David Fa’alogo punched Braith Anasta in the mouth, then sin-binned Anasta after Jeremy Smith had a swing at him.

Said Anasta following that game:

“The referee [Cummins] lost the plot. He listened to the crowd. He should check his undies seriously. I’ve never seen anyone give in to the crowd like he did. How do I get 10 minutes in the bin for getting punched in the head and throwing one back?`

“He just lost the plot out there, simple as that.”

Cummins has adjudicated a Roosters game 26 times prior to this one, and awarded the Roosters 85 penalties to 105 against. Among teams he has refereed, only the Bulldogs have a similar discrepancy:

Click to enlarge (via RL Tables).

Click to enlarge (via RL Tables).

That differential will jump another notch after Friday’s game.

But this isn’t just about Cummins. This is about something that is endemic in the refereeing ranks dating back to 2005 and spanning five coaches, four full-time captains, a premiership and a wooden spoon.

It goes back to before our second most penalised players this year, Jake Friend and Frank-Paul Nu’uasala, began their first grade careers. And it pre-dates the signing of our most penalised player, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

This current Roosters team is vastly different to the one from 2005 — the only constant being the emblem on the jersey, and that jersey being, without fail, among the most penalised teams in the competition.

Here is the evidence (stats via Rugby League Tables):

Avgs Diffs since 2004

Stats via

In 10 seasons we have not received more penalties that we’ve given. We came close in 2007 but still finished 13th in penalties conceded, somehow.

Further, the Roosters are featured five times among the top 18 referees with the worst penalties for/against ratio, dating back to 1980:


Click to enlarge, via RL Tables.

This is clearly bigger than Cummins.

This nonsense that the Roosters are happy copping penalties so they can set their defensive line is so sub-mental as to defy comprehension. And by that insane logic — bereft of any real analysis whatsoever — shouldn’t the Roosters have been in a grand final every year for the past decade?

What benefit is there to the Roosters allowing a 40 metre unimpeded charge up-field?

This “strategy” has failed to work for the past 10 years, and the Roosters have lost two of the three games this year in which they’ve been pummelled by the referees.

They finished just as dead-last in penalties differential in 2010 when they made a Grand Final as they did when they won the spoon.

You would think after finishing with the spoon, they’d try and change their ways, no?

Maybe they just don’t lie down when they get hit high (like Pearce DIDN’T after Foran got him high and late) and they don’t flail their arms around like a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men when they’re on the ground.

Source: Photo Apex.

Maybe they should.

Maybe the Roosters are just behind the times here. Maybe Mitchell Pearce should have stayed down. Maybe Boyd Cordner should stay on the ground and furiously hump the grass like a teenager banging away during his first root when he gets tackled, rather than try to simply get up.

But that isn’t in the spirit of the game, despite it creeping in during the past 10 years. Maybe the referees should coach less, and referee more.

And maybe the referees could try refereeing the entire game, and not just the defensive line the Roosters happen to be on.

But maybe, we can leave it to Bryan Fletcher to say what Robbo can’t afford to. When asked on the Matty Johns Show last year why the Roosters get penalised so much, he said:

“Because it’s the Roosters.”



9 responses to “A decade of the arm pointed away from the Roosters

  1. So Proud of Robbo – he spoke on behalf of his team – but also on behalf of the club, our staff, our members and our supporters. He said what we all think – fuck – what we all know – and what we all see week in and week out. He spoke in a measured, constructive and reasoned way, not a petulant rant like you see from Toovey and some of the others. He used facts and events from the game we had just lost, and he made sense. He failed to bite despite all efforts from the press… (‘So what do you think his motivation was?’)
    Gus Gould went over it on Sunday in the Sun-Herald- and basically agreed with Robbo – but now being paid by Penrith, couldn’t really go in all guns blazing. But we all remember the day he wanted to pull the team off at Brookie in protest against the crap we were copping from the ref…(of course against Manly – but that is merely incidental!)
    Robbo spoke for all of us – I just hope he was heard at the NRL! But I won’t hold my breath…


    • Exactly right mate. I love how he brought up the decade of discrepancies too — he wasnt there for all bar two years and four rounds — so the club are aware of it and giving him some history to back his completely accurate argument.

      It was just what we wanted to hear — and it was stronger because he doesn’t go off the handle willy nilly.


  2. Few things:

    1. Sterlo brought up the infographic (last Thursday??) highlighting the location of where the Roosters concede penalties. Even he was speechless, because it didn’t fit the narrative that they are disproportionately conceding near the goal line (in order to reset the defence). The penalties were scattered all over the field, many coming out of the opposition’ send, and deep into tackle counts (not shown on the chart)

    2. The Roosters still give away ill-disciplined penalties, which I thought would have been largely eradicated by now.

    3. Having said that, to penalise Jennings for a very marginal hand-on-ball offence after a one-on-one ball-and-all tackle was not only unfair (because it was blown so fast and didn’t even impact play, and his hand was caught as a result of the tackle anyway), but was compounded by blatant penalties that should have been awarded against Foran and Matai in particular. They didn’t even try to hide it.

    Many more examples, but suffice it to say that a 3-penalty gap would have been a better reflection, not 9.

    4. I’m also tiring of the vendetta on JWH’s head. He is high on my list of half dozen favourite players across all teams. Hard and passionate. Being referred to in the media without fail as ‘firebrand’ or worse only serves to provide referees with ‘forethought’. His report on the weekend was a joke. Compare it to the almost identical Maclean shoulder on Graham’s head. I don’t think it was even penalised, yet it was ‘front on’, nor spinning.

    I wonder what would have happened if he had committed the Gallen (another favourite) crusher pre Semi Finals last year? Wouldn’t have been a week.


    • Yep — I’m an idiot. I should’ve mentioned that Sterlo piece — he did a similar thing last year too. The “strategy” should only really work when on the line, right? It makes no sense to me how a piggyback up the field helps the defending team; it never has and never will.

      On the penalties — absolutely. I think the penalties the Roosters received were largely justifiable. They have been unable to fix this for the past three years! But it’s those penalties like Jenko’s hand on the ball that irk me — because It’s something that Buhrer and Watmough got away with on a number of occasions in that game. And Jenko was not warned in the same many either of those guys repeatedly were.

      On JWH: yep, this firebrand label certainly leads to some predisposing of his character — and any hint of aggression is instantly labelled “over the top”. There is no way that was a shoulder charge, or a swinging arm — but expect some dodgy charge like “careless high shot” which can mean anything. Where was he supposed to go, really?

      Personally, I wonder what would have happened had it been him with the Lussick coathanger. That’s an instant arm away from the Roosters again, but this time pointed at the dressing rooms.


    • Hi Dr NRL,

      I didn’t get to see the Sterlo piece you’re referring to. Is the video available anywhere online? I’ve googled it and can’t turn it up anywhere, but I may be using the wrong search terms.




      • I couldn’t find it either I am afraid. They don’t put the videos online… i’ll keep looking for it and if i find it, i’ll send it to you 🙂


      • They guard the data jealously from my observation. I’ve tried to get the data from them and it’s a case of “talk to the hand”.

        I only just deleted the show from my IQ too … I could’ve taken a pic. Irritating!


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