In their first two seasons in the NRL the Gold Coast Titans had injuries to blame for their inability to make the finals – but NRL statistics show it could be the shrill sound of the referees’ whistle conspiring against them in 2009.<br><br>Currently the Titans are sitting pretty in third position, equal on competition points with the top teams. But they were looking just as comfortable in 2008 after 15 rounds (fourth on ladder but equal first on points) before they hit a massive brick wall and ended the season way down in 13th.<br><br>Luke Bailey has once again suffered a serious injury at a similar time of year but perhaps of more concern is the news the side is averaging more penalties conceded per game than any other side in the competition.<br><br>With over 7.5 penalties per game awarded against his side Gold Coast coach John Cartwright hasn’t held back, stressing his side needs to improve their discipline – but ‘Carty’ also knows a reputation for ill-discipline can be very hard to shake no matter how hard a team tries.<br><br>And with the importance of penalties being more and more vital in the modern game Cartwright knows it could easily be the difference between a top-four or even top-eight berth.<br><br>“Being on top of the list is a major concern and something we are working very hard on to address,” Cartwright confirms to NRL.com. <br><br>“The importance can’t be underestimated as penalties are deciding games.” <br><br>Cartwright has long been an advocate for a change in the rules when it comes to advantages from penalties, claiming the extra field position gained from 50:50 calls doesn’t equate to the misdemeanour. <br><br>He has called for “discretionary” penalties to no longer result in a kick for touch but just a tap, to limit the impact of the referees’ calls. Discretionary penalties are those where opinion of the official is paramount – like holding down and offside, compared to others like foul play and back-chat.<br> <br>The Titans have given up more “hold down” penalties than any other team.<br><br>“The result of the penalty doesn’t suit the crime these days as you lose so much field position for something that is discretionary, or where some referees give it and some don’t,” Cartwright explains.<br><br>“And then having two referees on the field complicates it. The advantage that can be gained just doesn’t add up to me. I definitely think there should be changes. Or at least it should be debated. <br><br>“You only have to watch one game to see how many tries are scored off the back of penalties – and don’t get me wrong: if you give away a penalty for something stupid like foul play then so be it, you deserve the punishment. But the discretionary ones, like holding down or hand on the ball, aren’t always picked up and if you are unlucky enough to be picked up… well, it can easily cost you the game.<br><br>“And a few games here or there is the difference between playing finals or not.”<br><br>When asked about the fact his side seems to earn the ire of the referees, despite working hard on fixing the issue Cartwright says it’s no surprise changing a reputation can be extremely difficult.<br><br>“Referees are like football teams in that they do their homework and can get preconceived ideas,” he says. <br><br>“Then if a guy tends to do something in a tackle every now and then they are on the lookout for it and he might not get the leeway of others. I have no doubt that sort of thing has happened for years. Some guys are targeted before they go out and are policed much harder.”<br><br>The Roosters (7.5), Cowboys (7.43) and the Dragons (7.21) are other teams with discipline headaches, something the Cowboys and Dragons particularly need to fix before the finals.<br><br>When it comes to individuals who are in the eyes of the officials the NRL’s most ill-disciplined player is Australian, Queensland and Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston with 17 penalties conceded so far this year. He leads Bulldogs halfback Brett Kimmorley (15 penalties) and his scrum-base partner Travis Burns (14 penalties).<br><br><b>Most Penalties Conceded Per Game (Teams)</b><br>1. Titans 7.54; 2. Roosters 7.50; 3. Cowboys 7.43; 4. Dragons 7.21; 5. Wests Tigers 6.86; 6. Panthers 6.79; 7. Bulldogs 6.62; 8. Sea Eagles 6.5; 9. Knights 6.36; 10. Broncos 6.29; 11. Sharks 6.14; 12. Eels 6.08; 13. Storm 6.00; 14. Rabbitohs 5.77; 14. Warriors 5.77; 16. Raiders 5.31. <br><br><b>Top-10 Most Penalised</b><br>1. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 17; 2. Brett Kimmorley (Bulldogs) 15; 3. Travis Burns (Cowboys) 14; 4. Mitchell Pearce (Roosters) 13; =5. Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) 12; =5. Beau Scott (Dragons) 12; =7. Matt Prior (Dragons) 11; =7. Brent Kite (Sea Eagles) 11; =7. Michael Ennis (Bulldogs) 11; =10. Dan Hunt (Dragons) 10; =10. Anthony Laffranchi (Titans) 10; =10. Peter Wallace (Broncos) 10; =10. Ben Rogers (Knights) 10; =10. Petero Civoniceva (Panthers) 10; =10. Dene Halatau (Wests Tigers) 10; =10. John Morris (Wests Tigers) 10.<br><br><b>Your Club’s Worst Offender</b><br>BRONCOS: Peter Wallace 10; BULLDOGS: Brett Kimmorley 15; RAIDERS: Bronson Harrison 8; SHARKS: Trent Barrett, Reece Williams 8; TITANS: Anthony Laffranchi 10; SEA EAGLES: Anthony Watmough 12; STORM: Dallas Johnson, Cameron Smith, Will Chambers, Ryan Hoffman 8; KNIGHTS: Ben Rogers 10; COWBOYS: Johnathan Thurston 17; EELS: Matt Keating 9; PANTHERS: Petero Civoniceva 10; RABBITOHS: Roy Asotasi , David Kidwell 8; DRAGONS: Beau Scott 12; ROOSTERS: Mitchell Pearce 13; WARRIORS: Jesse Royal, Micheal Luck 7; WESTS TIGERS: Dene Halatau, John Morris 10.
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