Each week, ESPN's NRL experts Darren Arthur and Christian D'Aloia take on the burning issues in the game.
Addin Fonua-Blake was given two weeks for referee abuse, Joseph Leilua four weeks for his high shot on Dylan Edwards - are these penalties fitting?
Darren: Both players committed acts that we simply can't have young players emulating. Fonua-Blake was understandably upset at the poor bunker call that cost Manly a chance to take their game against Newcastle into extra time. But you simply can't yell abuse at the officials, setting aside the fact that he wasn't even abusing the official responsible for the terrible call. It is hard enough getting young people to referee at junior levels with the amount of abuse they cop from parents on the sideline; if players start getting away with it at any level, there'll be no whistle blowers left. As for Leilua, his moment of madness caused no real damage to Edwards but it was an extremely bad look for the game. Seeing Leilua on a personal revenge mission after his brother was injured was just plain ugly. Unprovoked acts of sheer stupidity like that have no place in the game. I'd say the penalties are pretty spot on.
Christian: I'm more than comfortable with the NRL taking a hardline stance against players verbally abusing referees. No one deserves to be spoken to in that way, especially when they're just doing their job, regardless of whether it takes place in the office or an NRL football field. As Darren said, it's going to be pretty hard getting young people to become referees when they're the subject of such intense abuse when they're just doing their best. Leilua's misdemeanour, meanwhile, was nothing short of a dog shot but I think his punishment fits the crime given Edwards suffered no real damage. Warren Smith's take on the situation, however, was a gross overreaction. He called for Leilua to be suspended for six weeks and have his contract torn up, before going on to call the Tigers' signing of the firebrand centre "the worst signing of any player in the NRL era" - eight games into Leilua's career with Wests. In a world where Jarryd Hayne at the Titans exists, it's not easy to agree with Smith.
What needs to change to avoid John Bateman situations in the future?
Darren: There has been some recent ugliness between the Canberra Raiders and John Bateman's player agent Isaac Moses. Bateman is departing the club and coach Ricky Stuart is not happy about the way negotiations played out. There has been talk that agents have been using their client lists as bargaining tools, threatening to move players on when negotiating deals for other players. It's a very murky world with agents determined to sign their clients to the most lucrative deals, ensuring their own financial security, while the clubs are tasked with maintaining a competitive team under the salary cap. The first thing that needs to change is the agent's ability to ask for releases from current contracts. The NRL needs to take steps towards ensuring signed contracts are honoured by both parties, especially when one party is not happy with the proposed changes. There have been way too many cases of players jumping out of contracts halfway through.
Christian: The Bateman-Raiders saga got very ugly when coach Ricky Stuart aired out his grievances with infamous player agent Isaac Moses publicly. Moses has been under fire for many years now with several reports of shady tactics when negotiating his clients' contracts, giving him an unprecedented level of power over clubs that employ them. As Stuart suggested in his press conference, I do believe it is necessary for the NRL to introduce protections for clubs from agents like Moses. In no other sport league around the world does an agent have as much power over franchises as Moses does, and nor should they. One possible solution could be to limit agents to only a handful of players per club, though I can see this arrangement hitting a speedbump when it is argued that it limits the earning potential of players. Another more obvious solution that fans have been pressing for would be to release the details of contracts publicly and ensure that these contracts are actually worth the paper they are written on. An agent should simply not be able to pull a player out a club whenever it suits him. When Warriors owner Mark Robinson announced that his club would be cutting ties to any players managed by Moses, namely Blake Green and Gerard Beale, I was actually rather impressed and wouldn't be surprised if other executives followed suit.
What if the Broncos can't beat the Bulldogs?
Darren: This hypothetical is not completely out of the range of possibility. The Bulldogs have been struggling, but have been putting plenty of effort in for little reward. They welcome England international Luke Thompson into the side this week at lock and the lift that will bring could have them jumping out of their skins. The Broncos completely outclass them on paper, but as we've seen all season from the Queenslanders, their hearts aren't completely in this campaign. It doesn't take much of a difference in intensity to see a poor team out-enthuse a better team. If the Bulldogs do manage the upset on Saturday afternoon, Anthony Seibold will be gone by Wednesday.
Christian: With the Broncos' latest unforgivable loss coming at the hands of a severely understrength Warriors side, there is a very real chance that the basket-case Bulldogs could record only their second win of the season, against Brisbane this week. Even with Adam Elliott out indefinitely - arguably the Dogs' best player this year - Luke Thompson is on deck to fill in at lock and could be a genuine inspiration to the side. Make no mistake, the Bulldogs remain a mess; not only does the team lack talent, but coach Dean Pay continues to select players out of position. But with Anthony Seibold again refusing to shake up his severely underperforming halves pairing of Brodie Croft and Anthony Milford, and instead choosing to shuffle the Broncos' backline for the umpteenth time, it suddenly becomes very difficult to pick a winner in this contest.