There is not a lot of sympathy from fans around the NRL when the Melbourne Storm feel as though they have fallen victim to an abuse of the rules. It has long been established in the minds of opposition fans that the Storm coaching staff spend sleepless nights coming up with new ways to exploit the rules. So on Thursday night after their loss to Parramatta when Storm coach Craig Bellamy suggested the Eels players were milking penalties, particularly for crusher tackles, not many tears were shed.
It was first put to Eels coach Brad Arthur by the media that his players appeared to be staying down in order to secure crusher tackle penalties, and he was firm in his response.
"I'd have to have a look at it again but no one's deliberately staying down mate," Arthur replied.
When Bellamy had his turn in front of the camera, he let it be known that he was pretty sure they were.
"I think I'd disagree with Brad on that," Bellamy said.
"I suppose the definition, whether they are [crusher tackles] or not, but you get people turning in tackles," he added.
"I think I made that comment during the week, I don't think anyone goes out there to consciously do a crusher tackle on the opposition.
"With all due respect I think there was one, on one of our blokes too, that didn't get picked up and our bloke got up and played the ball."
The following day, the NRL match review committee appeared to vindicate Bellamy's claims. The two Storm players put on report for crusher tackles were not charged, whilst an Eels player was, for the very tackle Bellamy referred to. Clearly the Storm coach had a point.
Storm's Cooper Johns and interchange player Albert Vete were both penalised and put on report for back-to-back crusher tackles in the first half. Johns was involved in a tackle on Eels winger Maiko Sivo who has a habit of backing into tackles and sitting down.
The Storm are renowned for their three man tackles, with the third man in, wrapping and putting weight on the tackle to slow down the ball carrier's efforts to return to his feet. Some Eels players were backing into tackles, and sitting in a way that meant the second or third tackler's weight was being applied to the back of their head.
Once the contact was made, the Eels player would let out a groan, hold the back of their neck and lay down to wait for the video replay, which would result in a crusher tackle call. It worked twice, giving the Eels penalties when the game was in the balance.
The only player charged for a crusher tackle from the game was Eels forward Marata Niukore who now has a two-game ban hanging over his head. Niukore was involved in another notable officiating inconsistency during the game.
Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona was penalised and sent to the sin bin in the 53rd minute for a hit on Niukore, who seemed to dip slightly just before the tall prop's shoulder made illegal contact with his head. Asofa-Solomona was rightly given a grade-one careless high tackle charge by the committee, but can escape with a fine.
Meanwhile Niukore who broke the jaw of Storm hooker Brandon Hughes in the final minutes of the game with a very similar hit, was not penalised, was not sin-binned and was not charged.
It seems Bellamy had good reason to be upset after the loss. All coaches and all fans just want to see some consistency in the officiating of games. And the last thing anyone wants to see is players lying down to milk penalties, for any reason.