Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Follow football - give yellow cards to the simulators

Ma'a Nonu. Photo / Greg Bowker
Ma'a Nonu. Photo / Greg Bowker

Jimmy Cowan's "Hollywood" that got Ma'a Nonu sent off on Friday night got up my nose a bit - and I wonder if the lawmakers need to have a look at it.

In football, they call it 'simulation' when footballers fall down in the penalty area or in general play and try and win a penalty or a free kick for their team.

Some people call it gamesmanship. I call it irritating when people like Jimmy Cowan get up afterwards, are clearly not hurt, and then start laughing about what he's got away with.

It changed the Hurricanes-Highlanders game. Nonu shoulder-charged Cowan, who was going for the ball, and it was a penalty. But that's all it was - and marginal at best.

Cowan went down as if he'd taken both barrels from an over-and-under shotgun. He lay there, face down, until Nonu had been sent off - and then got up grinning. It was a real p***-take.

I thought Nonu was hard done by and his first yellow card was also tough. He got done for contesting the ball in a ruck situation but I thought what he did was OK. So then you start looking at the referee: Stu Dickinson. Known to be a whistle-happy bloke.

But there is one thought here that maybe the refs - if they are going to be such sticklers for the rules - should be armed with a further rule. Players who "simulate" (which is a nice word for conning the ref) should also get yellow-carded.

Cowan was clearly not hurt. Nonu's charge was clearly not a thing of malice. A penalty would have been sufficient, not one of these referee head explosions. You could even argue that he got the wrong guy or, if he was going to yellow card Nonu, he had to do the same thing to Cowan.

Using the card for players trying to pretend they have been injured or fouled would soon clear that up and make the refs look harder at both sides of such incidents.

I'd also clear Nonu of any further punishment if I was on the judicial committee. Sending off sufficient - that's what I reckon.

Maybe it's wrong to say that the Nonu red card changed the game - as the Highlanders looked as though they might have won anyway. They out-passioned the Hurricanes and I think they showed straight away the influence of new coach Jamie Joseph.

I always remember former All Black coach Laurie Mains telling me that Joseph, in his playing days, was not the flashest of loose forwards but that he had heaps of passion and commitment and I think you saw that in his team on Friday night.

But the point remains: con-artists shouldn't be rewarded. I thought another player who was pretending a bit was big Highlanders No8 Nasi Manu. He flatters to deceive, I think, and while he gets involved, the work he does is of poor quality.

Compare that to the much smaller Adam Thomson who was everywhere, doing everything, and always driving forward in the tackle - a display which announced his All Black intentions this year.

As for the Blues and Crusaders, what a great game for this time of the season. These two teams were several notches above anything the Hurricanes or Highlanders had to offer. I thought the Blues won because it's the old story of games starting at the front - and there were top 80-minute games from Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.

In the backs, they made real progress each time they had the ball, whether it was Rene Ranger on one wing or Sherwin Stowers on the other. They were at least three scores behind at one point but, most importantly, this team seems to have what Blues and Auckland teams of recent years haven't - belief in themselves.

If I was to compliment both teams, it'd be in the person of Jared Payne - who's played for both. He wasn't a game-breaker, nor did he do anything flashy ... but it was a case of being in the right place; making the right decision; and sending the right pass. That's what wins games.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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