Whilst researching for Wednesday’s 10 Positives to come out of 2014, I was reminded of more than a few negative aspects of the 2014 season.
Unfortunately, as with everything in life, with rugby league you do have to accept the bad with the good.
In order for the positives to outweigh the negatives, because if you’re like me you’re probably sick of negative headlines when it comes to the NRL, the negatives have been limited to just five.
For now I won’t make mention of the perceived inconsistencies when it comes to punishment for player indiscretions. That’s another matter for another day.
1. Alex McKinnon’s Injury
Without a doubt the scariest moment I can remember seeing on an NRL field.
The moment McKinnon failed to stand up to play the ball following a tackle gone wrong, spectators and commentators began to fear the worst.
The ONLY positive to come out of this was the amazing Rise For Alex fundraising efforts which would make any fan of the game proud. When faced with adversity, the NRL fans do stand together for their own.
Alex’s determination to fight against being told he may never walk again has been nothing short of inspirational, and I, like everyone else, hopes he is able to walk his bride down the aisle.
2. Player Suspensions
If I ever hear another Asada headline again, it’ll still be too soon. The drawn out two year investigation FINALLY came to an end resulting in player suspensions.
Although the suspensions will not affect the start of the 2015 season, the fact players were suspended for drug related practices does place a black eye on the game as a whole.
The negative headlines attracted by the scandal have done damage to the game’s reputation, with fans of other sporting codes having a field day in the media.
The Sharks struggled to find sponsors and I can only guess how many potential investors were forced to think again due to the headlines. Let’s hope we never hear the Asada name again.
3. Players Leaving The Game
For very different reasons, we will say goodbye to four genuine superstars of the game, at least for the time being.
Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess, arguably the two faces of the game, have left to chase a World Cup dream in rugby union, while Jarryd Hayne has left to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
Todd Carney was basically exiled from the game after having his contract torn up by the Sharks.
Although it’s possible we will see Burgess, Hayne and Williams back in the game in a few years, the fact the game has lost arguably three of its biggest stars to rival codes is sure to worry officials and fans alike.
4. Refereeing Standards Continuing To Decline
To be honest I’m not sure that the standard of refereeing in 2014 was any worse than in recent years, however it sure isn’t improving either.
I tend to give the referees a fair bit of slack but sometimes it becomes incredibly difficult to try and justify their decisions.
The fact the video referee continues to make errors is almost unbelievable given the technology available.
I’m not sure a referee bunker is the answer but they have to try something. Too many games are being decided by refereeing errors or inconsistencies.
5. Uneven Television Coverage
I fully understand why Channel 9 selects the Broncos and South Sydney for the majority of their Friday Night games. They’re the two sides with the biggest fan bases so it’s likely they’ll rate better than other sides.
That doesn’t mean fans enjoy watching the same teams in the same timeslots almost every week.
Teams outside the big few struggle with sponsorship in comparison as the Broncos and Bunnies can attract potential sponsors based on almost guaranteed free to air coverage.
Plenty of fans had no trouble expressing their annoyance of the perceived Burgess and SBW love-ins shown on Channel 9. Hopefully next season some new superstars are highlighted and FTA coverage is a little better spread out. Raiders vs Warriors Friday night anyone?