Firmly in Trent Robinson’s corner, rugby league greats Peter Sterling, Brad Fittler and Darren Lockyer believe video referees are killing the game.
Sydney Roosters coach Robinson continued his crusade against players feigning injury and diving to win penalties by accusing St George Illawarra centre Euan Aitken of staying down too long after being tackled by Dylan Napa in the Roosters’ extraordinary Anzac Day clash.
Napa was placed on report for dangerous contact – having already been sanctioned for a crusher tackle on Josh Dugan – a decision that led to a second-half penalty goal that ultimately won the game 14-12 for the Dragons.
But Robinson has been campaigning against the gamesmanship for weeks and even St George Illawarra playmaker Benji Marshall this month confessed to the Dragons staying down 10 or 12 times this season in the hope of hoodwinking referees into granting his side a penalty.
“It’s not an isolated incident. Players say they do it because it’s being allowed to happen,” Robinson said.
Sterling on Sunday said he agreed 100 per cent with the Roosters coach.
“I said four or five weeks ago, if we take the video referee out of this situation, we don’t have a problem,” Sterling said on the Nine Network’s Footy Show.
“I hate seeing our game (going this way). I heard during a game last year through the microphones a teammate yelling to his player `stay down, stay down’.
“If we get to that situation, the game’s in trouble.
“It’s not our game. It is not what rugby league is about.”
Sterling says the NRL needs to remove the video referee from all decision-making except for in-goal plays.
“We’re saving time left, right and centre,” he said.
Fittler agrees, saying the tactic is not only poor sportsmanship but also ruining rugby league as a spectacle.
“I want to know why do you stay down?” he said.
“If you’re not concussed, why would you lie on the ground with your eyes closed?
“I understand what they’re doing … but then come off.
“It slows the game down that much that it becomes un-entertaining.
“I’ve sat there and watched footy since I was four years old and I’m telling you at the moment where there’s a situation of a lot of players are lying down, we’re going to the video ref all the time.
“It’s taking away what makes our game great is that flow, non-stop, end-to-end stuff happening all the time.
“And that’s what’s killing it.”