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Annesley clears Roosters of field goal blocking but open to reviewing rule

NRL head of football Graham Annesley has cleared the Roosters of illegal blocking in the lead-up to Sam Walker's match-winning field goal against the Titans.

While setting up a "wall" to take the heat off kickers isn't outlawed - provided defenders have the chance to "move directly towards" the ball - Annesley is happy to review the rule in the off-season.

Under the current interpretation, Roosters forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley were within their rights to stand near the ruck before the ball went back to Walker.

Gold Coast hooker Mitch Rein dashed between them but couldn't charge down Walker's 78th-minute drop-kick as the 19-year-old halfback put his team ahead 25-24.

It proved the difference with the Roosters moving to a week-two finals clash with Manly after the Titans blew a late scoring chance.

Episode 29 - Bennett v Cleary, Jai Arrow, week 1 washup

It looked as though Radley and Waerea-Hargreaves were in front of the play-the-ball and offside, but Annesley couldn't be certain as "camera angles can be a bit deceiving".

In his Monday media briefing, Annesley read from the NRL Interpretations document given to each club at the start of a season to add clarity to the "blocking" rule.

"It says, 'If two or more players form a wall' – that's basically standing side by side - 'next to the play-the-ball and don't allow the opportunity for a defending player to move directly towards the player in possession, the referee will penalise for obstruction'," Annesley said.

He showed several examples of other teams legally using blockers as they shaped up for a field goal during the year.

Graham Annesley weekly football briefing - Finals week one

"The real issue is whether those players actually prevent an opposition player or defender from moving towards the player in possession," he said.

"The reason 'side by side' is in parenthesis [in the interpretations document] is basically it means that they literally stand shoulder-to-shoulder to make sure that a player can't get through.

"We just saw looking at Rein that he got through and he was able to put pressure on the kicker.

"We tend to look at incidents sometimes in isolation and not look at how they've been dealt with during the course of the year.

"Now, whether people think that players should be allowed to do that or not is another matter.

"And they are certainly things that can be discussed in the off-season, but we're not going to change the rules that we've been playing under all year just because we're in the finals series."

Waerea-Hargreaves said on Monday that he was impressed by Walker ordering him and Radley to "block" for his kick.

"He clearly demanded the ball and he set up in the right position off Angus Crichton's play-the-ball and then he got us two front-rowers to stand in front to block," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"The confidence in such a young kid - it amazes me all the time."

Annesley said that if Gold Coast had a captain's challenge up their sleeve, they could have called for a review on field goal. But he doubted the Bunker would have overturned it.

As for whether Waerea-Hargreaves and Radley were in front of the play-the-ball, Annesley said it was "difficult" to be certain.

"I agree, looking at it on the angle from the halfway line, it looks like he [Waerea-Hargreaves] is marginally in front," he said.

"Whether he is or not, who knows. But even if he is, players that are in front of the play-the-ball – and we've talked about this in recent weeks as well [with the downtown rule] - they are simply out of play.

"If they're out of play, they're out of play until the next play-the-ball."

Elsewhere, Annesley reiterated it was the correct decision to award Eels centre Will Penisini a decisive penalty try in a win over the Knights after he was taken without the ball by Enari Tuala.

Bunker awards penalty try to Penisini

There was debate as to whether Clint Gutherson had dropped the ball before kicking for Penisini, but Annesley said it was a moot point.

"People only tend to think of drop-kicks as field goal attempts, but any player can drop-kick the ball at any position on the field," he said.

"As long as he's always attempting to kick it, as opposed to his foot accidentally coming into contact with the ball ... it's still a drop-kick and it's not a knock-on," he explained after citing the rule.

Meanwhile, Annesley said he was fine with Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and his Rabbitohs counterpart Wayne Bennett verbally sparring in the media before and after last Saturday's match.

Cleary suggested after South Sydney's win that by commentating on officiating issues, coaches could "manipulate referees".

"I think a lot of it is white noise. Coaches can disagree with each other, they can make public statements," Annesley said.

Cleary has his say on midweek chatter

"We make sure that when coaches make public comments on match officials that they haven't in any way tried to impugn their integrity or been abusive towards them in any way, shape or form.

"That's not what's happened in this case. We've got two coaches that have been expressing different views about different aspects of the game.

"And that's perfectly fine."

 

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