NRL 2021: Coaches fuming as referees crackdown on foul play in Magic Round, nearing record

The NRL's crackdown on foul play and repeated infringements has seen coaches up in arms for the number of sin bins and players on report.

The governing body came out on Thursday to announce the stricter rule in response to the dramatic rise in players suffering concussions as the  Australian Rugby League Commission directed referees to come down hard on any contact to the head, no matter the mitigating circumstances.

The referees have followed through with 12 sin bins and one send off in just five games of 'Magic Round', one short of the record for the most in a single round, which was back in round 11, 2018 when 14 players were marched in an all-time high in the NRL-era.

The carnage started on Friday with eight players sin-binned in the two games - four in each game - before five more, including a sending off occurred on Saturday.

NRL coaches aren't happy, as they let rip at the NRL in their post-game press conferences for tinkering with the rules and ruining the game.

"I feel sorry for the players, we've tried to speed the game up and now we are penalising players with a faster game, under fatigue they find themselves in vulnerable positions," North Queensland Cowboys coach Todd Payten says. "I feel sorry for the referees because they're the ones under pressure to make those calls.

"I really feel sorry for our supporters across the game - this is probably the biggest weekend in our calendar throughout the season and everyone's spending hard-earned money to turn up, and we've taken away from our game of rugby league in the end."

Payten didn't stop there, and when asked what needed to change he issued a stern warning to Peter V’landys and the ARL Commission.

"It was an accident and it wasn't a decision by Lachlan to hit him in the face or the head," he says. "The thing I've loved about our game however long I've played it is the physicality and we're going away from that and that's what worries me."

With the new rules in place, Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart expects to see many more players marched from the field in the coming rounds as he feels the NRL have set the standard for sin-bins and send offs.

"There are going to be a whole heap of send-offs this year if that's a send-off incident. I just hope they don't change now," Stuart says. "If that's going to be the precedent, we're going to find a completely different game of rugby league than we've been following for many, many years.

"It's sad we're talking about it, we're giving other sports a leg-up.

"We've got a wonderful weekend of rugby league and we want to promote our game but unfortunately we're talking about the wrong things."

Sydney Roosters took a different stance as he was vocal about changes needing to be made after captains, Boyd Cordner - who has been forced to miss a year of action due to concussion - and Jake Friend has been forced into retirement for repeated head injuries.

Coach Trent Robinson came out hot during the week after Parramatta players Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore weren’t sent to the bin in the Roosters’ loss last week.

 "Based on the rules they both deserved to go," Robinson said. "As soon as I saw the replay of Sitili's I knew he was going to the bin. He needed to get lower on that.

"He knew it and he shouldn't have gone that high. We all knew the consequences.

"It's been significant, the crackdown this weekend and I have listened to the commentary and all that. I'm different to everybody throwing their arms up and jumping up and down.

"There's been an overcompensation, it's pretty easy to see.

"We need to tackle lower, we can't loosely have head-high tackles and say you got it wrong and that you didn't mean it. It's been a bit over the top but it's also made a point to say don't hit him in the head."

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