“I’m sick of coaches getting what they want. Because coaches will never have the good of the game as their first priority. There is way too much self-interest in this game. What’s good for one club might not be good for the game.”
While Stuart has privately told V’landys he believes in a two-referee system, the passionate coach threw his support behind the changes as the game’s powerbrokers move towards eradicating the wrestle from the sport.
“As a coach in today’s game, you have to spend a large amount of your week in preparation working on wrestling,” Stuart said.
“If you don’t, you are only disadvantaging your team and your supporters in not doing everything you can to win. It has become a necessary evil. Making the changes is a good thing for all the kids out there buying headgears because of Kalyn Ponga.
“The kids that want to watch the Latrell Mitchells, the James Tedescos and the Jack Wightons. Why? Because it’s all attack and flair and exciting football. That’s what sells and expands our game, not doing two wrestle sessions in a padded studio every week.
“You look at all the great games and wonderful teams over the years, we all get excited about the flair and the attacking ability. We cannot say this about the recent era. At least Peter and the commission have had the courage to make decisions for the good of the game and have a crack at this.”
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett also threw his support behind the NRL’s new six-again rule, and scoffed at suggestions he had any influence over the latest changes.
The Rabbitohs supercoach, however, said he was a huge fan of the six-again call, and spoke of his love for the rule eight years ago in the lead-up to an All Stars game.
He said at the time: “It won’t happen this year but it will be a rule the game adopts in the future.
“Coaches, I can tell you now, if it becomes a rule of the future, they’ll make sure players cut out a lot of those infringements that do spoil the game because they won’t tolerate [their players] having to do six [tackles] in a row, and maybe six after that, because that’s going to kill your football team.”
Bennett told the Herald on Thursday: “I wasn’t there when the [latest] decision was made and I had no input into it whatsoever. If you go back to the All Stars game about eight years ago, yes I had a fair bit of say about in then, and we played under those rules. I liked it then.
“The one thing you know and I know and the referees know and fans know, it’s we can’t have games where there are 20 to 25 penalties on a regular basis because it stops the continuity of the game.”
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys also pointed to the influence on scheming coaches when he launched a passionate defence of the contentious six-again move on Thursday.
V’landys said he’d consulted a leading coach and said the change could, in fact, speed the game up.
“The whole thing is to act as a deterrent,” V’landys said.
“That’s important, what that coach said. Because he was honest. He said the opposite to what everyone is saying. He said it will probably speed things up.
“The coaches – with due respect to them – and I admire them greatly, they have to get an edge for their team. That’s what they are there for. But they can’t get an edge manipulating the rules,” he said.
“Naturally, if we changed it to stop them manipulating – they’re not going to be for it. They have trained and coached in their mind how they are going to do it for this year. That’s not in the spirit.”
The decision to revert to one referee and replace part time touch judges with full time officials has saved the game anywhere between $500,000 and $3.5 million, according to various reports over the last 72 hours.
V’landys explained why the number was closer to the latter than the former.
“The casuals are costing us more,” he said. “We have to pay them to train, we have to pay them to get physio – there are all these additional costs. We have to fly them to games, we have to accommodate them. Those costs add up.
“That’s what I think people don’t understand. It’s not just the cost of the wages. It’s the cost of all the ancillary things that go with it.”
V’landys said the media did not listen to the fans on the issue of refereeing.
“The problem with the media – and I’m going to have a crack at them here – is that they listen to the person with the loudest voice. They listen to the coaches. But who listens to the fans? The thing is, the fan pays the wages of all of us. They pay the wages of the coaches, the players, everyone. But all we do is listen to the coaches.”
“I go around and talk to the fans and listen to them because if you don’t look after your customer, you do it at your peril. That’s one of the things kept hammering in my head. Your ratings – how are you going to guarantee your ratings? By listening to your fans.”
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.