Ben Pomeroy

Heading into the games, all NRL fans expect the conversation post-game to be about the stellar game in front of them and how the teams performed – not a refereeing blunder.

That is exactly the talking point after the Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys game – one that the Sharks won narrowly – with many fans left discontent and disillusioned with the state of refereeing, after the Cronulla Sharks scored a try on the seventh tackle, leaving the Cowboys dudded for a second year in a row.

If you cast your mind back to last year, it was Kieran Foran’s ‘hand of God’ that robbed the Cowboys of a chance in 2012 and in a sign that the Gods are not with them, once again, they faced some tough calls.

It was a blunder that saw NRL CEO Dave Smith forced to apologise, as Cowboys coach Neil Henry suggested a conspiracy against the club.

“How can two men, experienced full-time referees, two touch judges, two blokes up in a video box not be counting,” Henry said.

“We’re all well aware that we had chances in the game after that to make that up – but it astounds me that it happened.

“You expect the players to perform on the biggest stage … well, your referees have got to perform too and they’ve proven a couple of years in row now they’re not up to it.

“It’s embarrassing for the game, and I got that from the top – they’re embarrassed … it doesn’t give us a game next week.”

Henry’s rant continued, as he genuinely believes there is a preconceived view to have an all Sydney final.

“If you were (a believer of) a conspiracy theory, you’d go hang on – they’re so Sydney-centric here, they don’t really care about the boys up north.

“The press talks about the ideal grand final – Souths-Roosters – bring it on.

“Yeah, well we’ve just been dudded of the opportunity to make a dent in this competition.

The incident was downplayed by Sharks captain Paul Gallen, something that would not sit well with irate fans.

“It’s part of the game; the Cowboys didn’t stop trying to defend it,” Gallen said.

“Unfortunate for them – about time we had a bit of luck.”

Despite the controversy, however, the Sharks fought deep when required, though it did appear that Todd Carney’s hamstring gave way again.

3. Ben Pomeroy
2. Gavin Cooper
1. Anthony Tupou

By ricky

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