Refs urged to watch for sloppy ruck play

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - PAUL MALONE

spon­si­bil­ity and do­ing that ex­tra prac­tice ev­ery day, it’s be­come a lot eas­ier.”

As the Cowboys pre­pare for Satur­day’s rematch with the Pan­thers at Pen­rith, Lowe said the Cowboys were now more com­fort­able with Michael Mor­gan spear­head­ing the team at half­back in Thurston’s ab­sence.

The win over Pen­rith sparked four straight wins, although all against teams out­side the top eight.

They have since lost backto- back games against top two sides Mel­bourne and the Roost­ers, and Pen­rith has shot into the top eight af­ter five straight wins.

“It was good we got ( the Pen­rith) win and our first one with­out Johnno, so we were a bit ev­ery­where at­tack wise,” Lowe said. “We’ve had a bit more time with Morgo be­ing our main man for a few weeks. I think we’re in a much bet­ter po­si­tion than we were dur­ing that game.” The Cowboys are bat­tling a hor­ror in­jury toll and Mor­gan will cap­tain the side for the first time on Satur­day af­ter standin skip­per Gavin Cooper hurt his calf against the Storm last week.

“He stepped up in the role when ‘ Coops’ went off on the week­end as well,” Lowe said.

“He’s got plenty of lead­er­ship qual­i­ties in him and the boys lis­ten to a lot of what he has to say.”

Lowe ad­mit­ted he was part of a right edge which had been sus­pect de­fen­sively, but they took some steps for­ward against Storm af­ter a for­get­table fort­night.

“Our edge alone the past cou­ple­coupl of f weeksk h hasn’t been the best de­fen­sively,” he said.

“We took a pretty good step on the week­end but we have to keep im­prov­ing if we want to do some stuff in the fi­nals. “That’s our main goal at the mo­ment.” NRL ref­er­ees have been urged to en­sure gen­uine at­tempts are made to play the ball at rucks.

An NRL com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee meet­ing this week dis­cussed the need for tack­led play­ers to not get away with rolling the ball be­tween their legs at the play the ball.

The NRL main­tain there will be no crack­down on how the ball is played in this round, only that ref­er­ees were re­minded on Mon­day “to re­main vig­i­lant with the play the ball’’, league ref­er­ees boss Tony Archer said.

“There have been penal­ties awarded for in­cor­rect play the balls and the ref­er­ees will con­tinue to as­sess ev­ery ruck to en­sure that ev­ery player makes a gen­uine at­tempt to play the ball,’’ he said last night.

“In cir­cum­stances where the player loses con­trol of the ball when he plays the ball, the ref­er­ees will rule a scrum.”

This does not equate to play­ers hav­ing to make con­tact with their foot in ev­ery play the ball, only that a gen­uine ef­fort to do so is made.

The prac­tice this sea­son of some play­ers mak­ing no at­tempt to use the foot in pre­sent­ing the ball to the dum­my­half is a bug­bear for many league watch­ers.

NRL CEO Todd Green­berg, an­swer­ing ques­tions on so­cial me­dia yes­ter­day, said ref­er­ees were al­ready be­ing “vig­i­lant’’ in en­sur­ing le­gal play the balls and also pa­trolling of the prac­tice in which block­ers in­con­ve­nience kick- chasers.

“This ( block­ing) was an­other topic of dis­cus­sion at the com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee meet­ing,’’ he said.

Green­berg said a new strat­egy for the game would be un­veiled be­fore Christ­mas, with feed­back sought through re­cent fan fo­rums.

He said Thurs­day night matches and the 6pm game on Fri­days would be part of next year’s draw.

“The 6pm Fri­day game is a great op­por­tu­nity for young fans to see a game although we need to do bet­ter to sched­ule games in the right venues,’’ Green­berg said.

Pic­tures: WES­LEY MONTS, ZAK SIM­MONDS

KICK­ING IN: Ethan Lowe ( right) at Cowboys train­ing yes­ter­day and ( be­low) the kick which se­cured vic­tory for the Cowboys in their Round 16 clash against the Pan­thers.

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