Stats that show NRL penalty crackdown is failing
THE NRL's ruthless refereeing crackdown is not having its desired effect because teams who continually break the rules are still winning matches.
A Fox Sports Lab breakdown of key on-field discipline data from the opening 11 rounds reveals some teams are actually benefiting from giving away penalties and losing players to the sin bin.
High-flying Penrith are the least-disciplined side in terms of penalties conceded and players sin-binned, while North Queensland, premiership favourites to start the season, appear to be the victims of sides deliberately conceding penalties against them to slow and disjoint their attacking rhythm.
The key findings were:
# The Cowboys have been awarded most penalties (110), and have only one player sin-binned (equal least) but languish in 15th position;
# The Manly Sea Eagles have been awarded the third most penalties (108) but are only 12th;
# Penrith and Wests Tigers have had most players in the sin bin this year (five each) but are still running second and eighth;
# Penrith have actually conceded more penalties than any other club (116), 40 more than the most disciplined side, Brisbane (76), who are running ninth;
# Four of the six most sin-binned clubs are all in the top eight - Panthers, Warriors, Roosters and Wests Tigers;
# St George Illawarra are showing that by kicking the most penalty goals, rugby union style, you can be leading the competition.
In a year in which there have been more penalty goals in 11 rounds than in all of last season, the breakdown of statistics reveal nothing has been achieved to improve the game as a spectacle as was hoped.
If anything it has been the opposite effect with the time lost and wasted from continual stoppages.
Channel Nine executives believe the stop-start football is the major reason why their ratings have fallen by eight per cent this season.
Their senior commentators Phil Gould and Andrew Johns have been two of the harshest critics.
This season there have been 17.68 penalties per round compared to 12.77 last season.
That is an extra 40 per round and at least 20 minutes of 'lost' football every week if each one forces a 30-second stoppage.
Fans are most annoyed and irritated by the lack of consistency in policing the rules.
On Friday night in Brisbane, Broncos prop Matt Lodge attempted the worst play-the-ball I've seen all season against the Roosters but wasn't penalised by Gerard Sutton.
Former referee Bill Harrigan says it's time for the NRL to soften the stance.
"It's now time they found a balance and let the game flow," Harrigan said.
"We're nearly halfway through the season and it's improved from last year.
"When there's a bad play the ball that sticks out like dogs' balls, penalise them.
"But don't be pedantic with the more minor ones."