FEW rugby league fans who have followed the game as closely as me over the past four decades could disagree that the game is less violent now that it has ever been.
The recent 'no-punch' edict has eliminated that final piece of potential violence.
While not a total convert to political correctness, only an arrogant fool could believe the future of the game was not being harmed by the blatant thuggery dished out by Paul Gallen in Origin I this year.
Had the game turned a blind eye to that behaviour, any parent worth their salt would question whether they wanted little Johnny to play the game.
Flurries of punches have now become scuffles and push-and-shove events, and while obviously not as entertaining to the rugby league purists, it seems the players have finally got the message.
It's a shame then that this week the NRL missed a golden opportunity to send a message to those players who are just plain sly.
For Rabbitoh forward Jeff Lima to miss just one game for his blatant ankle twist of Anthony Watmough is a joke.
At least Gallen stood toe-to-toe with Nate Myles in Origin I, even if the Queenslander didn't throw a punch. Lima's cowardly act, on a player who was being held by two others, was simply gutless.
But it is a continuation of a pattern of cunning practises that have gradually crept in to the game in recent years and - like the biff - has to be outlawed.
In the case of Lima it was obviously deliberate, was perpetrated by a player who has history for this type of behaviour and was there for the Friday night TV audience to clearly digest.
The fact the NRL whipped him with a feather is a dereliction of their duty to all who play the game - from kids to international stars - to all who watch the game and to all the mums and dads considering what sports their children might play down the track. The sentence he received sent no message at all.
Why the sack?
LIKE Neil Henry, David Furner is one of the genuine good guys in rugby league.
But, as he admitted, the NRL is a results-driven sport and the buck must stop at the top.
What is not fathomable in the sacking of Furner - and Henry for that matter - is what has been gained?
Both clubs are still in the hunt for the finals, which means either could still win the premiership.
Okay, so that is an outlandish longshot, but imagine the embarrassment for both boards if that did happen. The other most notable issue with the Raiders is the 'get-out' clauses in the contracts of two of their most outstanding players, Anthony Milford and Blake Ferguson. With the club seemingly in turmoil - on and off the field - how is the sacking of the coach likely to be the trigger for either or both to stay?
Furner and Henry may not be considered by the respective boards as premiership-winning coaches, but one thing they both have is class. Neither has uttered a critical whimper.
CAMERON Smith is human, after all. Against the Knights last weekend he committed two fundamental errors which we will probably not see again in years. He kicked dead on the full from a re-start and then missed a conversion from almost in front. But, like the ultra-professional he is, he forgot about those mistakes, led his team superbly and was named man of the match.
FINALLY, after 31 years, the brilliantly-sculptured NRL premiership trophy will be finally given its fitting name - the Provan-Summons trophy. First presented in 1982, the trophy has been named after various sponsors and not the two Gladiators it features. And, hopefully as ARL Commission chairman John Grant promised at a Men of League luncheon in Mooloolaba last Christmas, the two rugby league icons will present the trophy to the premiers on grand final day.
IF THE Roosters go on to win the premiership - as many good judges suggest they can - Sonny Bill Williams will fall tantalisingly short of an NRL milestone. Barring injury, and depending on whether the Roosters win their first match of the finals, SBW will finish on either 97 or 98 NRL games. Will the lure of the magical century bring him back for one more season?
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