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For & Against: Chambers should tone down his sledging

Will Chambers's sledging has sparked plenty of debate in recent weeks as the abrasive Shark searches for an edge over his rivals.

The veteran centre's bid to unsettle the Warriors and Sea Eagles backfired to an extent as Cronulla lost both games and even his own coach questioned the value of the tactic.

Chambers now faces an uncertain future at the Sharks and his penchant for a bit of old-school niggling has put the ancient art of sledging under the microscope once again.

For & Against - Chambers should tone down his sledging

For - NRL.com senior journalist Paul Zalunardo

Sledging, mental disintegration, trash-talking – call it what you want but it's a concept that has been a part of sport for as long as games have been played. 

It is something you will never be able to remove from competitive events, but equally, something that isn’t needed. 

The exploits of noted “talker” Will Chambers in recent weeks has seen sledging become a talking point in the NRL once again.

Evans sent to sin bin for punching

One person who hasn't liked it is none other than Chambers' coach Josh Hannay 

“I didn’t enjoy it,” Hannay said after the game against Manly.

“When you’re behind on the scoreboard I am loath for our guys to be too chirpy."

While Chambers looks to have enjoyed himself, you know what the result of this has been – two largely forgettable playing performances from him and two losses for his Sharks. 

So, while Kane Evans was defeated in the personal battle and plenty of fans got a laugh out of it, it didn’t achieve anything apart from Chambers getting punched and Evans getting sent to the sin bin. 

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Of course, it does work at times. Most usually on players who are easily distracted. 

But finding top-line players – the ones most likely to decide wins and losses in big games – who can lose their concentration on account of someone on the opposition baiting them is not as easy. 

Provided this sledging remains of a nature that doesn’t mention race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, family members or anything else outside the bounds of common decency, many will view it as fair game. 

While it may be fair game, the success rates of such activities mean they often prove a waste of time. 

And while we are at, let’s not remember this whole sledging caper can be just as likely to put to the sledger off their game as it does the sledged. 

A player looking to find an opportunity to launch into an opponent with some choice words isn’t entirely focused on what they should be worried about.

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A few words pointed at some players can also result in making the intended victim more determined to beat you on the scoreboard. 

Talking to NBA legend Michael Jordan was simply a no-go zone for opposition players once his response to a couple of feeble attempts at disruption was witnessed.  

Sledging won’t stop and Will Chambers won’t stop partaking in it – but that doesn’t mean that it is going to become a tactic that turns losses into wins.

Should Will Chambers tone down his sledging?

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Against - NRL.com senior journalist Martin Lenehan

In the high-pressure world of the NRL, players are always searching for ways to get an edge over their opponents, both physically and mentally.

In Will Chambers's case, the quest to gain an advantage over his rivals usually takes the form of no-nonsense defence or a nonsensical spray or serve.

It may not be particularly clever, but if it puts an opponent off his game and causes him to focus more on Chambers than doing his job then the narky Shark has had a small win.

Of course, a line must be drawn at racial abuse or talking about a player's family, but if the banter is confined to bagging a bloke for making a blunder or reminding an opponent that you've had the wood on them for years then all's fair in love and mental warfare.

Back in 2015, Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston took the opportunity to remind Blues counterpart Mitchell Pearce about his lack of success at Origin level as Queensland romped away with the decider.

Pearce had missed his state's drought-breaking triumph the previous year so 2015 made it six series defeats for the Blues No.7 and JT was only too happy to rub it in, suggesting the closest he'd ever come to the Origin shield was getting his photo taken with Wally Lewis' statue outside Suncorp Stadium.

"That period there when there was a fair bit of banter between the two teams, I couldn’t believe what Pearce was saying about some of our players at the time after one of the games," Thurston recalled in 2020.

"I just put that in my memory bank for when we played them next and it was fortunate, we put 50 on them that night and I let him know about it.

"I always wanted to be better than the opposition player, that’s how I approached the game."

Pearce copped it on the chin and moved on and come 2019 he got his moment in the sun when he played a leading role in the Blues' series-clinching try in Game Three of an epic series.

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Asked whether he'd be sending Thurston a cheeky message to let him know he finally had his hands on the shield, Pearce proved himself a gracious winner when he said, 'Nah mate, JT has won more Origins than I'll ever win, what a super player he was. Queensland's legacy - if we can do that, we'll be very happy people. They set the benchmark in Origin'."

The moral of the story is that a bit of harmless banter, if taken in the right spirit, can be used as motivation to turn the tables on your protagonist and make sure you get the last laugh.

Unlike Kane Evans, who came out swinging when Chambers got under his skin last weekend, Pearce kept his temper in check and put the spray in the memory bank, just as Thurston had done when the shoe was on the other foot.

Whether Chambers continues his tirade in coming weeks remains to be seen. Maybe he'll run out of things to say or maybe he'll get to the final-round clash with Melbourne and really crank it up against his former teammates.

We've rightly eradicated punching from the game during the past eight years but there should always be room for a bit of verbal sparring.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.