Following the news that Paul Gallen had been fined $50,000 and banned from representing the Kangaroos until he had completed a management responsibility course, social media was set alight.

It seemed an almost 50/50 split with plenty siding with the NRL, while almost as many were very critical of Dave Smith and co. for what they believe was an over zealous punishment.

The out pour of emotion and opinion got me thinking, who are the biggest ‘villains’ in our game?

The below list is a Top 10 of those figures seen as the those we all love to hate. Quite frankly the game would not be the same without the polarizing figures that dominate discussions every Monday morning.

It is not meant to be disrespectful in any way, in fact a lot of ‘hate’ aimed at certain players comes due to their ability, and a degree of respect.

This is meant for fun only and is not a list of people or figures I dislike, but more a summation of those who cop the brunt of fan fury at any opportunity:

10. Robbie Farah

To preface this I must admit, I am a big fan of the Tigers and NSW hooker, but every time there is anything even close to a rumbling in Tiger land, fingers are immediately pointed at the club captain.

From the sacking of Mick Potter to the supposed power struggle between team Benji and team Farah, the brilliant number nine always seems to be the target of barbs both from inside and beyond the club’s fanbase.

It’s only natural that a club captain and most influential player bare the brunt of any negativity at a club, but I for one do not buy into the theory that Robbie runs the club.

I think a lot of the accusations thrown at Farah are a little over the top, but one thing that is for sure is that if newly appointed coach Jason Taylor starts to feel the heat, or there are any rumours of player unrest, fingers will immediately be pointed at the influential captain.

9. Michael Ennis

is there a more polarizing player in the game than Michael Ennis? Dogs fans absolutely loved him, while fans of every other club seem to detest his presence.

Next year I’m sure Dog’s fans will join the list of opposition fans who are infuriated by his tactics, while Sharks fans will defend and adore his every move.

Love him or hate him, and plenty seem to hate him, Ennis’s ability speaks for itself. Always putting in until the final tackle of the game, the new Shark is sure to be full of niggle at his new club.

Ennis has this unmatched ability to get other opposition players, and fans, skin.

Personally I love the way Ennis plays the game, except those two or so weeks each season that he comes up against my side.

8. Peter Doust

Test and Origin winger Brett Morris has made his way across Sydney from the Red V to the blue and white where he will join brother Josh in a formidable Bulldog backline next year.

Rumours are that the club will have to shed at least another two or so star players to ease salary cap concerns, and may struggle to retain Origin back rower Trent Merrin.

Peter Doust is the man who is seen as responsible for the fact the Dragons, post Wayne Bennett, have gone from a genuine super power to the textbook definition of also-rans.

The reported signings of George Rose and Heath L’Estrange haven’t gone a long way to easing tensions within the joint-venture club’s demanding fan base.

The club also lost perhaps their most promising youngster in the form of Jack Bird to rivals the Sharks, another move that has left fans shaking their heads.

Reports are that the situation at the Dragons will get worse before it gets better. How long can Doust and co continue to live off the Bennett engineered premiership?

At least the Red V seem to have appointed a coach they’re willing to fully support … for now.

7. Jamie Soward

Jamie Soward, on the back of perhaps a career best year at the Panthers, is still far more widely referred to as a ‘sook’ than a player of great ability.

I fully admit I did not think Soward had a future at NRL level when he was released from the Dragons, but his form at the Panthers more than justified Phil Gould’s decision to bring him to the foot of the mountains.

Soward led a young Panthers side brilliantly throughout 2014, but copped more stick for his double gun celebration post big play than he did plaudits for the play itself.

To be fair he didn’t help his cause when he went on record as admitting his feelings were hurt by Beau Ryan’s playful barbs on the Footy Show.

Fans are not use to NRL players showing genuine emotion, which is something Soward exerts in spades.

6. John Grant

It’s fully expected that the chairman of the ARL commission should at least know the names of the clubs his commission supposedly resides over.

The Cronulla Hawks and Manly Seagulls were two NRL sides Grant referred to whilst reading out the Kangaroos test side in April earlier this year.

Now we’re all prone to the odd gaffe, you’ll probably find a number of errors in this very piece, however surely a simple read over would have saved Grant from yet another embarrassment.

The commission was set up to great fanfare, and to this day still trumpets the fact it managed to secure a record tv right deal, a huge positive for the game.

Besides banning the shoulder charge, can anyone name an important decision handed down by the commission?

Can anyone name another John Grant error, that for someone in his position, should not have been made?

“There hasn’t been an all Sydney grand final in a long time” - Grant at this year’s Grand Final lunch.

I guess the Manly/Roosters Grand Final of 2013 does seem like a “long time” ago now.

5. Paul Gallen

The majority of Sharks fans will tell you Paul Gallen is a sure-fire Shark immortal. Some NSW fans will tell you that Gallen is amongst the best forwards to ever represent the state.

North of the Border however, Gallen is public enemy number one. He is constantly the focus of any negative attention from opposition fans, and is a target in the media due to the way he plays the game.

I’m not in a position to comment on the ban he is currently serving, or the reports over the weekend in the Telegraph re his battle with depression.

Gallen’s actions always seem to split opinion. His left-right combo on Nate Myles was seen as the ultimate sin by those in the sunshine state, while people from NSW saw it as their captain standing up for atrocities carried out in the past.

His latest comments on social media have again landed him in hot water, and as usual, has divided opinion.

I’m on record as saying that I think the fine and ban were overkill considering the circumstances, but I understand I’m probably in the minority in my thinking.

Gallen is one of the best players to ever don the black, white and blue for Cronulla. He has carried the club on his broad shoulders for a number of years.

Unfortunately a number of indiscretions on and off the field mean he will continue to be targeted just as much by fans as he will be the likes of Josh Papalii and Dylan Napa.

4. Dave Smith

Ultimate every decision handed down by the NRL will come back to the man who runs the game, in NRL Ceo David Smith.

Whether it be player misbehaviour, ticket prices, or fixture congestion, Smith is the man who is seen to have the final say on every decision, even though this may not be the case.

Just as David Gallop copped plenty of mickey from fans, the CEO of any major organisation is going to be heavily on the receiving end.

The majority of fan frustration seems to come due to the rapidly increasing cost of a day out at the footy, and the perception that the NRL are not willing to act to prevent this.

Smith could not have had a more difficult first few weeks in the job after having to endure the fall out of the darkest day in sport press conference and resultant Asada investigation.

In terms of dollars, Smith is killing it. The former banker has his finger well and truly on the pulse when it comes to turning the game into a money making machine.

Fan frustration seems to come from the fact that whilst player misbehaviour and the television station’s influence on the running of the game continue to increase, these issues are seemingly of less importance than maximising the money made from Origin ticket sales.

3. David Gyngell

Sick of seeing yet another Broncos game on Friday Night? Thursday Night footy got you down? Delayed footy on Sunday afternoon anyone? How about those later kick off times?

David Gyngell, the CEO of Channel 9, cops it no end, and I am willing to fully admit I am very guilty in this instance.

I loathe delayed footy on Sunday afternoon. Those watching across the globe are privy to watching the 3pm kick off live, so why do we in the host nation have to wait an extra hour, and be forced to endure countless ads?

The SBW and Sam Burgess focus as well as the constant free-to-air coverage of only the high rating teams are intelligent business strategies employed by the organisation who help fund the game.

This doesn’t mean fans are willing to accept this however.

Whether it be dictating who plays when, or the Grand final kick off time, the general consensus is that Channel 9 run the game just as much, if not more, than David Smith.

This does not sit well with fans. Gyngell, as CEO, is obviously a figurehead and therefore the brunt of blame, even though common sense would dictate he is not responsible for every little decision made.

2. The Journos

Phil Rothfield, Paul Kent, Rebecca Wilson, Danny Weidler. Four of the leading names that have covered the game for many years, and four of the names I constantly see berated on social media.

It’s natural to defend your side on subjective issues, but prevalent journalists are well and truly up against it in the digital era.

With nowhere to hide, they are constantly under attack, some justified, some well over the top, on social media by fans and players alike.

The fact is, journalists are paid to report the news and offer opinions. Those opinions will always divide fan bases across the sport.

Fans of numerous clubs have claimed that the major papers are bias against their sides. Whether this is correct or not is a whole other story, but there do seem to be some clubs that escape scrutiny, while others always seem to be plastered negatively all over the back pages.

The main source of frustration and anger comes not through opinions, but the fact that a select few seem to think their opinion means more than that of the average punter.

1. The Referees

NO ONE in the game attracts more fan hatred, whether rightly or wrongly, than the referees.

It would be unfair to single out just one, or one pairing, of officials as I honestly can’t remember seeing a single game since the popularization of social media that the referees were roundly applauded.

Fans are always looking for people to blame for losses, hell emotion gets the best of all of us, and the men with the whistle are traditionally the best outlet.

Whether it be as simple as a “open both eyes ref” or something far more sinister, bagging the referees is as much a part of the game as kick offs and cut out passes.

To be fair, the officials don’t do themselves in favours with inconsistent rulings, seemingly obvious wrong decisions from the video referee, and the lack of accountability for incorrect decisions.

The standard of refereeing seems to have declined over the years, mainly due to the increase in replays that highlight errors, and the introduction of the pocket referee has been widely slammed.

I don’t know what the answer is, but there is a very real chance that a massive game will be decided on the back of an incorrect refereeing decision in the future … just as it was this year … and the year before … and the year before.