Gareth Ellis – Phil Clarke calling rugby league players ‘cheats’ is a step too far

I was a little disappointed with some of the recent comments about players ‘cheating’ in rugby league.

Gareth Ellis in action against Leeds Rhinos on Friday night.

Phil Clarke brought it to everyone’s attention during a commentary, talking about players deliberately playing the ball into a defender lying in at the ruck and ‘cheating’ penalties.

However, I’d never call a player a cheat. I know there’s a bit of gamesmanship and there’s things that have crept in over the last couple of years such as where the dummy-half was throwing the ball into a player that was in an offside position.

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We soon stamped that out. I think a big issue, also, was the ‘crusher’ tackle.

Former Wigan and Great Britain forward and current Sky TV pundit Phil Clarke.

I think that did become a little bit of a play-acting thing sometimes when it’s TV games and, in particular, players holding their necks when sometimes finding themselves in those positions.

But when we had the referees in before the start of the year they have actually taken a different stance on the ‘crusher’ tackle for 2019.

They have decided to put some onus on the ball carrier; if they want to back into tackles there has to be an element of responsibility on them.

I think that’s right. A genuine ‘crusher’ tackle is a real dangerous tackle.

But I feel the ones where players do end up backing into a tackle and become caught in that awkward, wrong position I don’t think that’s as much the defender’s fault.

It should be more the fault of the attacker and the powers-that-be have obviously got that right. The latest one is, as mentioned earlier, deliberately playing the ball into the defender lying in at the ruck. But that is a tough one.

I suppose they are in the way and, if they’re in the way.... they’re in the way.

Are you allowed to move off the mark to play the ball in that situation? I don’t know if you are.

Regardless, I certainly don’t think the game is changing in the way suggested – there being a rise in cheating.

I think Phil (Clarke) also said something about they brought the ‘shot clock’ in to stop cheating.

I don’t think that was the reason why they brought it in. They brought the shot clock in to speed up the game and make it more of a spectacle.

They didn’t want to keep having eight o’clock kick-offs and then finishing games way past 10 o’clock, which was happening.

That’s why they brought the shot-clock in and I think it’s worked; the game is moving along faster.

As I always say – and have found out again these last couple of weeks – rugby league, in particular, is a very tough game played by tough people.

We’ve always had the attitude if you get injured, don’t let the opposition know you’re injured.

I remember my dad telling me ‘you’ll be okay, just get up’ and that’s what you do. I hope that mentality is still within our players – don’t show them you’re hurt – and I hope that mentality does remain in rugby league. I think it will.

If there is any of the other stuff that creeps in I’m sure it will soon get stamped out.

To call someone a ‘cheat’ takes it too far; I don’t think rugby league players are cheats at all.

We all respect each other and still have that mindset of playing hard for 80 minutes and then shaking each others’ hands at the end of the game.

How it should be.