NRL grand final sides set to test ref - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL grand final sides set to test ref

By Steve Jancetic 03/10/2008 05:17:31 PM Comments (0)

The heat is firmly on referee Tony Archer with neither Melbourne nor Manly ready to change their penalty-attracting styles in Sunday's NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium.

Melbourne and Manly, the top two teams of the regular season, have also been among the worst offenders when it comes to pushing the limits of the rules.

Their 7.3 penalties per game throughout the 2008 season were topped only by Newcastle with 7.5.

"I wasn't aware of that fact ... I'm not quite sure why that is," said Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.

The statistics for Melbourne and Manly fly in the face of the notion that referees' penalty decisions are key to deciding the outcome of NRL games.

In fact it seems some of the Storm and Sea Eagles' success this year has come about because they don't mind testing the limits.

And it appears Archer can expect more of the same on Sunday.

"We're not going to change our style too much, Manly aren't going to change their style too much," Bellamy said.

"And I'm sure the referee's not going to change his side too much so we're all aware of what's expected so I imagine he'll go out and referee how he usually referees."

Manly hooker Matt Ballin said it was only natural both sides would test Archer's patience.

"It is part of the game, both teams push it a little bit," he said.

"That's the way it goes.

"You don't want to give Melbourne any field position as they are just too good a team."

During his time in charge of the NSW side in this year's State of Origin series, Bellamy was involved in a running battle with referees boss Robert Finch over some of Archer's interpretations.

But the reigning premiers' mentor said he saw no need to talk to Finch in the lead-up to the season decider.

"We're round 29 or 30 so I think pretty much we know what's expected," Bellamy said.

"I don't see any need for that."

Finch said he wasn't aware of the statistics involving penalties given away by the Storm and Manly, and agreed it was the likes of Matt Orford or Greg Inglis, and not Archer, who would decide the grand final.

"You could assume that on that information (about the penalties)," he said.

"They've (Manly and Melbourne) been up there all year - the high penalty counts - it hasn't stopped them from succeeding has it?"

The worst offender in the NRL this year on an individual basis has been Sea Eagles backrower Anthony Watmough, who has given away 25 penalties, while Melbourne's Michael Crocker has had the whistle blown against him on 19 occasions, making him the competition's seventh-worst.

Manly coach Des Hasler has pulled Watmough aside this week to remind him of the importance of not giving the Storm too many "piggy-backs" upfield through penalties, but the words of wisdom are unlikely to temper the former NSW backrower's aggression in defence.

"I'm not out there taking dudes' heads off, doing stupid stuff," Watmough said.

"It's just for pushing the play-the-ball a little bit too far, so I just have to keep that in mind when I go out there on Sunday."

Archer was the referee in both contests between the Sea Eagles and Melbourne this season with the Storm emerging victorious on both occasions.

The penalty count finished at nine-all in the first encounter at Olympic Park while it was 6-5 the Sea Eagles' way in the round 22 clash at Brookvale Oval.

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