Do we need a 5 minute sin bin?
If 2017 was the year of the injured star then 2018 is shaping up to be the year of the sin bin. The overall penalty count is up this year and the number of players copping time on the sideline for on-field indiscretions is through the roof.
In the first five rounds of play, 15 players were sin binned for various offences establishing an average of three players per round. That number has grown in the past week and a half, most recently on the back of professional fouls from Latrell Mitchell and Jarrod Croker.
The numbers suggest that fans can expect to see in excess of 70 sin bins this season, a massive leap from 43 in 2017 and 17 in 2016. There’s no doubt that the sin bin is a necessary part of the game and from a player welfare perspective it’s great to see referees using it more often, but does every sin binned player deserve their full sentence?
Panthers forward James Tamou was sent to the bin during his side’s win over the North Queensland Cowboys three weeks ago.
“You absolutely feel it out there as a player when your teammate goes off. You have to be aware and your game plan can change for that short time,” Tamou told NRL.com.
“Mentally you know you’re a man down, and depends when that player goes off you feel it physically too. The time seems to go slower. It’s hard to explain, it’s just about putting the extra effort in and be there to save that try or do anything you can.
“The intensity lifts because it has to. I think the important thing is to not panic, because the pressure can be on the side with the extra man and sometimes that can disrupt their attack too.”
Ten minutes is, after all, a significant period of time in an NRL match and certain indiscretions are less severe than others.
I’m not for a minute suggesting that a defending player shouldn’t be sin binned for denying an off the ball attacker a near certain try or, worse, compromising the safety of said attacking player. I do, however, believe there is room in the game for a five minute sin bin that could be used in more innocuous scenarios.
There are plenty who would suggest that Latrell Mitchell received a pretty rough call when he was ordered from the field during his side’s win of the Canterbury Bulldogs on Thursday night.
Bulldog’s halfback Kieran Foran was grabbed by Mitchell midway through the first half in a move that referee Gerard Sutton believed prevented Foran from scoring. Whilst it was no doubt worthy of a penalty, ten minutes in the bin seemed an exorbitant price to pay considering Foran was surrounded by a host of other Roosters players at the time.
Although a stint on the sidelines can allow the offending player to calm themselves, consider their behaviour and give the opposing side a one-man advantage, it could be argued that all that can still be achieved with a shorter five minute sin bin that could be used freely and without controversy, reserving the 10 minute binning for more serious and unambiguous indiscretions.