NRL Round 11 Six Again: Bunker not good enough, again

First tackle: Not good enough from the NRL bunker, again

We know the bunker has been under pressure to speed up their decision making, but it seems there is a fine line between being expedient and rushing a call, that should not be crossed - particularly when they get it wrong.

The Sharks first try against the Dragons on Saturday night was a sloppy affair with a kick through the line finding a deflection before a mad scramble in the in-goal area. Dragons fullback Matt Dufty reached out to ground the ball at the same time as Sharks forward Jack Williams.

A simultaneous grounding would be a try and the referee sent it to the bunker as a try. After what seemed to be a very short time, with precious few replays possible, the bunker awarded the four points to the Sharks. A couple of slow motion replays later and it was pretty clear that Dufty had his hand on the ball before Williams, if Williams touched it at all.

The try was converted by Shaun Johnson for the full six points, the Dragons went on to lose the game by four points.

NRL's head of football Graham Annesley came out before the end of the night and admitted that the decision was wrong and those involved in the decision would be stood down. That doesn't do much for the Dragons and coach Paul McGregor who is doing everything in his power to retain his job.

Second tackle: Horror injuries dent Knights armour

When an Achilles tendon ruptures it feels like you have been hit on the back of the heel with a hammer. When Newcastle's Connor Watson stepped away from a ruck and collapsed to the ground, he looked back to see who had kicked his foot out from under him. There was no one there.

He soon joined hooker Andrew McCullogh in the Knights' sheds. McCullough suffered a similarly serious injury when his foot slipped out from under him while making a tackle. Placed in a splits position that would have tested the hamstrings of the most agile gymnast, McCullough felt his rupture and had to be helped from the field.

Watson will require surgery and months of rehabilitation. McCullough's hamstring came from the bone, which will likely require surgery as well and they'll both be out for the remainder of the season. It is a double blow to the Knights' dummy-half stocks and their premiership hopes.

Third tackle: Cap transparency needed

If you asked NRL fans their biggest concerns with the game, I'm tipping that after officiating, most would have something to say about the way the salary cap seems to be a hindrance to some teams, but have little or no effect on others. Some would argue that cap management is a science and those clubs that have mastered it will continue to be successful and success attracts players. That may be true, but the reason the cap exists at all is to ensure playing talent is evenly shared among all teams and that doesn't seem to be happening.

The news that Sonny Bill Williams was interested in a late season NRL cameo after his Toronto Wolfpack pulled out of this year's Super League, sparked interest among fans. To hear that he would more than likely link up with the Roosters again, brought groans and open references to the Roosters' "salary sombrero". We can only assume that the deal will be done within the guidelines of the NRL's salary cap, but would it hurt if the numbers were made publically available?

Similarly, the Canberra Raiders, who have always complained about having to pay players overs to relocate to the nation's capital, have announced the signing of representative level forwards Ryan James and Corey Harawira-Naera (CHN). So, they are losing John Bateman and Nick Cotric, which frees up money, but that is next year and CHN is pulling on a lime green jersey as soon as he's ready. It would stop a lot of scuttlebutt if the public were shown the figures.

Fourth tackle: Dry Bennett gold

A Wayne Bennett post-game press conference is something every fan of the game should experience, if not live, then definitely as broadcast. The man has been at the top of the NRL coaching caper longer than anyone else, he doesn't suffer fools and he won't humour any questions he deems unworthy. Following the Rabbitohs loss to the Raiders on Saturday night, Bennett was at his best.

He thoughtfully detailed how having no minor grade football was making players without any match fitness struggle once thrown into the NRL cauldron. He indicated that he offered up some solutions to the NRL as part of their Project Apollo restart, but that no one was that keen on his ideas.

Then to top it off, when asked about the return of star fullback Latrell Mitchell next week, Bennett, who felt he shouldn't have been suspended in the first place, replied; "sure, as long as he doesn't pick up another suspension from this weekend."

Fifth and last: Fergo magic denied

Eels winger Blake Ferguson, returning from injury against the Tigers, somehow managed the most incredible grounding of the ball ever seen. For some reason when nearing the try line he jumped in an upright position instead of diving, as he was hit by a cover defender.

From a metre in the air he somehow came back to earth reaching down between his legs with the ball. His right foot landed out, so he needed to ground the ball before his feet landed and the slow motion replays showed that he somehow did.

Unfortunately, despite his amazing effort, the try was not awarded after a knock-on was identified earlier in the play.

Handover: Rain levels playing field, except in dry Brisbane

You only have to look across the scores this round to see what a difference poor conditions can make on games. The wet weather brought everyone down a peg, allowing upsets, near upsets and much smaller margins than we have been used to this year. The biggest exception being the poor old Broncos who got spanked by the Storm on a perfect Brisbane night.

The Bulldogs showed what an otherwise ordinary team can do with discipline and a wet weather game plan. They were relentless in their one out charges up the middle, played mistake free football and kicked their way out of trouble. Any advantages the Knights had in speed and ball movement were negated by the conditions. It was a tough slog of a weekend for many.