The Cronulla Sharks were facing their seventh straight loss heading into the local derby against the St George Illawarra Dragons and after the heart breaking loss during magic round, they were well and truly itching for a win.
The St George Illawarra Dragons on the other hand, were looking to cement some consistency into their season and secure a top eight spot.
With so much on the line for both clubs, this game was destined to go down to the wire.
Although both teams were missing players due to injury and suspension, there was plenty of action on hand for the eight thousand plus fans that braved the cold at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Admittedly, it was no blockbuster like Penrith and Melbourne but this game still had it all. Tries, sin bins, missed conversions, successful conversions, golden point, missed field goals and finally, a successful game winning field goal.
Most importantly, this game provided confirmation that the Cronulla and St George Illawarra rivalry is still alive.
The cries and cheers of the fans across the stadium would’ve mislead anyone into believing it was a sell out.
On a bigger picture, it was confirmation that the fire is still very much burning in the hearts of rugby league fans despite the new rules that have many fans threatening to walk away.
All you have to do is head out to a game of footy and you’ll see that the fans are still here and still care and will continue to do so for as long as they can. However, it’s very clear that there is a cloud of frustration in the air.
For as long as the game toys with the crack down on head high tackles at the extent that they have been the past two rounds, you’ll continue to see games – such as this one – tainted in the eyes of many.
There is nothing more exciting than a one point victory in golden point and yet some fans have still walked away from this game questioning what would’ve happened had there not been three sin bins. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fans either celebrating the win or applauding the efforts despite being down on troops, but there are definitely some who can’t look at any game anymore without only seeing the repercussions of the new rules. This is highlighted even more when judiciary charges come out and more and more players are being suspended.
The fans are always going to be here. Realistically, they aren’t going anywhere. Despite this though, the last thing this game needs is fans even threatening to walk away.
Peter V’landys has come out and essentially confirmed to fans that his rules aren’t going anywhere while admitting that they aren’t being executed how he wants.
This needs to be fixed as soon as possible then.
Let’s not waste any more weeks “adjusting” to the rules. Let’s not give fans any more reason to mourn what the game has become.
Rugby league fans care about rugby league players. They absolutely care about their welfare and when deserved, will applaud any officiating that ensures the safety of the players. However, rugby league fans can also see when a player has accidentally made contact to the head due to increased speed and guaranteed fatigue.
The game can see a ‘crack down’ without suffering an entire ‘clean out’ to contact to the head.
There are solutions that the game can explore but no matter what they do, they owe the fans consistency and clarity.