Why rugby league needs its hooligans

Notwithstanding the original State III, the answer is also “yes”.

There is a disconnect between what the NRL wants its game to be and what most of its fan base wants to watch.

The head office wants to attract as many people as possible, including mums and dads whose biggest concern is making sure their child is playing the supposedly best game of them all safely.

It’s all about the message, like last year’s mishandled crackdown on head-to-head tackles that lasted a month – although it sometimes raises its head during games.

Then there’s the rusty fan who loves the brutal, gladiating nature of rugby league. The rusty fan who wants his rugby league with a generous parallel order of mayhem. The rusty fan who wants Waerea-Hargreaves and Asofa-Solomona to strut along the touchline like Komodo dragons, before taking to the field and tearing themselves apart as they mark their territory.

But where to draw the line? Referee Adam Gee was criticized by some for the stop-start nature of Friday night’s game, but I think he handled a volatile game superbly.

If teams go around the line with illegal play, they should expect to be caught off guard with the occasional penalty against them.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves catches Nelson Asofa-Solomona.Credit:Getty

Waerea-Hargreaves took the meaning of ‘chinning’ someone to a new level and spent 10 minutes in the trash for slamming his stupendous chin on Asofa-Solomona’s forehead. Buy the ticket, take the tour.

On the contrary, Gee could have forced more set restarts for ruck infractions – there were only four in total – as each side kept the other in the tackle.

But other than that, he took the same approach to the game that Bill Harrigan did in his pomp: he didn’t get in the way and he let the players sort things out.


Rugby league games are messy, no matter how hard the NRL strives for perfection. Fans should expect inconsistencies from the referee – even from our old buddies in the bunker – for games as fiery as this.

We rightly expect some semblance of consistency when the charge sheet drops from the Match Review Committee the next day and, on that point, the game remains everywhere.

Roosters prop Lindsay Collins faces four weeks on the sidelines for his alleged hip drop, while the Storm players have not received a warning for similar tackles.

Big Nelson was fined $3,000 for dangerous contact with Joseph Suaalii, but a string of other misdemeanors from Friday night’s game were overlooked.

As for Big Jared, people forgot that he sparked the scrum that ultimately led to his stay in the trash after he swung and collected the header from Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona puts a hit on Roosters winger Joseph Suaalii.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona puts a hit on Roosters winger Joseph Suaalii.Credit:NRL Photos

It was a deliberate act, done just seconds after Gee told the two captains he was drawing a “line in the sand”.

The NRL has come under fire in recent days over Collins being the only one to receive a match ban from the most brutal match of the season.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has put more emphasis on players being fined instead of suspended to avoid the silly situation where players were sidelined for first-class harmless offenses , or due to deferral and loading points.

The NRL insists the change is working: there were 151 charges in 2022 compared to 303 charges in 2021, underlining that the modern-day player is more concerned with his back pocket than the sweater . Then there are players like Big Nelson and Big Jared who are loyal to street fighting.

They cannot fight with impunity. There must be a line drawn somewhere, by someone.

But may the game find a place for them for a long time.

Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and for free on 9Now.

About Laurence Johnson

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