‘The fabric of our game is being destroyed’
A FED-UP Ricky Stuart has warned nit-picking penalties and constant stoppages are "destroying the fabric of our game".
And if the NRL doesn't act fast to fix it rugby league will end up as boring as rugby union.
In a passionate response to Sunday's stop-start top-four showdown between Canberra and Manly where a total of 27 penalties infuriated commentators and fans alike, Stuart declared he could no longer sit back and say nothing.
Stream the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership on KAYO SPORTS. Every game of every round Live & On-Demand on your TV, computer, mobile or tablet. Get your 14 day free trial >
"We don't want to turn it into rugby union," Stuart said.
"I love the game. But the fabric of our game is being destroyed.
"It saddens me to say this. And this is not about us losing the game. We are still in the top four, but this is about somebody having the courage to stand up and say enough is enough.
"Why is rugby union struggling for broadcasting rights? Why are they struggling for crowds?
"It is because people want to see a free-flowing game, not a boring contest that is constantly blown up.
"At the start of the year we were told in unequivocal terms (through new NRL head of football Graham Annesley) that we want more ball in play.
"But we are getting less. We have more stoppages. We have nitpicking penalties. We have blokes in orange and blue shirts (team trainers) who can now go to the linesman and stop the game at will.
"Now they will find a statistic somewhere that says I am wrong.
"They will pull a stat out and show us at the end of the season how there was more ball in play.
"But I don't need to see statistics because I see it with my eyes and through my gut.
"I have been playing since I was four. The fabric of the game is being ruined."
Stuart was not the only person who didn't like what he saw on Sunday, with Channel 9 commentators Phil Gould and Andrew Johns expressing their exasperation throughout the match.
Stuart also highlighted the penalty count discrepancies over the weekend which he says are equally difficult to comprehend.
"We had 14, 14, 9, 9, 7, 15, 20, and 27," he said.
"I'm telling you, games aren't played that differently. They are interpreted differently. That is why no one is watching senior rugby union, and yet we are doing everything we possibly can to have our game get there.
"Phil Gould said after the Parramatta-Canterbury game when a player from each team was sin binned that if we reduce the game to 12-a-side it would open up and that there would be less interference at the ruck and it would be great to watch.
"I agree with that, it would open the game up.
"But after our game I wonder what we are trying to achieve.
"I actually like rugby union. My son plays rugby union, and I love watching his games because it is not about the interpretation and stoppages. But senior rugby union is all about stoppages and nit picking. That is why I can't watch it.
"I don't think people understand where the game is actually going, and it is going to be too late soon.
"I was that excited getting to the game on Sunday with our biggest crowd of the season in a top four game of football and all it did was get spoiled by stoppages and penalties.
"That is not rugby league to me."