NRL great PAUL GALLEN writes exclusively for Wide World of Sports and will appear on Nine’s 100 FOOTY% on Monday night, debating rugby league’s big issues alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Watch from 10.15pm AEST!
I was at a party on Saturday night and Wests Tigers vs Panthers was on. A few people asked me: “What’s a coach reacting like that for?”
They were referring to Penrith’s Ivan Cleary blowing kisses to an abusive Tigers fan after full-time. It was an unusual situation – probably the first time we’ve seen a coach react like that.
But I have a question in response: Why do fans think they can get away with abusing coaches and players when they go to a game of footy?
Why do they think they can say whatever they want to say, do whatever they want to do to get a reaction, then get upset with what that reaction is?
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That’s all it’s about: looking for a reaction from someone. To then sook about the reaction is just ridiculous.
Don’t complain. Don’t whinge. Seriously, grow up and get over it.
Ivan Cleary hasn’t reacted like that for no reason. Given what was reportedly said to him, a string of four-letter words, he was certainly provoked. We’re all human beings.
Paying money to go to a game might give fans the right to voice their opinion, sure, but why do some think they have any right to abuse people? And how can you complain about getting a reaction to that abuse?
I’d hate to see the day where an incident like this becomes physical. Where a fan might really go too far and confront a coach or a player.
We saw Corey Horsburgh sticking up his finger at Parramatta fans the previous week and he was given a warning, too. Why is it OK for fans to abuse an injured player as he leaves the field, then the player cops a warning from the NRL?
Players don’t usually react to stuff like that because they don’t want to wake up to headlines like this. When you do see a reaction, it tends to be after genuine provocation. It’s human nature and that should be the end of it.
I don’t understand why other fans are then calling talk-back radio or getting on social media, spraying a coach or player further. Let it go.
They might claim that players or coaches should take the high road, but sport is highly emotional. That’s what makes it great. Sometimes things spill over and a split-second show of emotion really doesn’t warrant this type of overreaction.
If you don’t take it all too seriously, Saturday night was just part of the theatre of rugby league. Ivan Cleary and Wests Tigers have a well-documented history and here was just another chapter. The end.
Cleary explains why he was blowing kisses to Tigers fans
To be honest, Ivan Cleary might have bigger problems to worry about.
Penrith are a good side at the moment but I can’t see them doing a lot of damage at the back end of the year when the whips are really cracking.
Nathan Cleary is going great, he’s been on fire since returning at halfback, but they look too one-dimensional in attack for mine; and by that, I mean it’s all about Viliame Kikau. They go to him constantly.
Fullback Dylan Edwards is a great player, tough as nails, and their entire back five do an unbelievable job of getting their sets started. Josh Mansour and Brian To’o are both running 200m every game, Edwards is producing similar.
But when those whips are cracking come finals time, I reckon you need a genuine fullback who can play like an extra five-eighth. A James Tedesco-type player, where I think Edwards is definitely a ball-runner rather than a ball-player.
They can be a top-four team, but they’ll need to add more strings to their bow to win the comp.
Kurt Capewell seemed to do that for them, playing right-edge back-row, but he’s been out injured. If he can came back, stay fit and improve that right side, that will help.
But for mine, they’re going to need more to seriously threaten for the premiership.
THIS IS THE MOMENT LEILUA MUST FINALLY CHANGE
Dylan Edwards was the man who copped that coat-hanger from Joey Leilua late in the game. Leilua will be suspended for it and rightly so.
It was stupid and a bit cheap. Unfortunately for Joey Leilua, while we haven’t come to know him for foul play like that, he is known for brain snaps.
He’s big, fast, strong, agile. He’s got all the talent in the world.
But we’re yet to see that talent fulfilled. That’s what frustrates people about Joey.
He’s constantly involved in brain explosions and doing silly things on the field. This was just the latest and probably won’t be the last.
Some of the backlash has been totally over the top; people calling him the worst signing in the club’s history and saying that his contract should be torn up. That type of personal stuff is uncalled for.
But that hit warrants a ban and scrutiny of his game. You could see him hang his arm out, then put a bit more sting into the hit in the last split-second.
This is a player who was once spoken about regularly as a possible NSW Origin centre. I think those days are gone now for Joey.
As a younger bloke, he certainly would have been considered due to his ability. That ability was there for everyone to see. But to be at Origin level, you’ve got to be consistent; week-in, week-out, year-in, year-out.
Unfortunately for Joey, that’s not his strong suit. He’ll win the Tigers a few games on his own this year, he’s a terrific player when he has his head on. But right now, he’s going to be out for four weeks.
That’s Joey and that’s a big part of the reason why the ship’s sailed on representative football. All those incidents add up over the years. It’s not even a matter of reputation; it’s just a fact with Joey that he’s an inconsistent player.
I don’t think that’s being too harsh on him. He can win you a game, and he can cost you one.
Leilua decks Edwards with coat hanger
Wests Tigers are still just inside the top eight. Hopefully they can stay near there while Leilua’s out and they can have a crack at making the finals, which they haven’t done in years.
They have a decent roster and Michael Maguire’s doing everything he possibly can to make it happen. Yet the Leilua suspension will hurt them.
Hopefully this flicks a switch in Joey and he realises that he just can’t do these things anymore. That he doesn’t have to be the best player on the field, but he can’t do dumb things like we saw on the weekend.
If he can cut those things out of his game, hopefully he can be that consistent player that we’d all love to see.
That’s up to him. He’s the only one who can make those changes and he can use this suspension as the catalyst.