Refs urged to watch for sloppy ruck play
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.
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.