Polarising former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke has got himself into a heated on-air stoush with veteran Daily Telegraph rugby league writer Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield.
The two butted heads on Sky Sports Radio over the adjudication of Sunday’s fiery elimination final between South Sydney and Sydney.
WATCH IN THE VIDEO ABOVE: More on ‘sin bin Sunday’ as a record number of players sent off
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A record seven players across both sides were sent to the sin bin during the Rabbitohs’ 30-14 victory.
Clarke and Big Sports Breakfast co-host Laurie Daley slammed match referee Ashley Klein for treating the match like “under-10s”, given the number of players he sent off.
But Rothfield had a contrary view, and it ignited a lengthy on-air spat.
Scroll down to read the transcript of the argument
Phil Rothfield: “That game yesterday was a really, really bad advertisement for rugby league, that’s my view. Do you agree with me with that?”
Michael Clarke: “Oh my god, I feel like it’s under-10s. Yeah, there were some head highs, I agree with that Buzz, but please, it’s not touch footy – give me a break.”
Rothfield: “Clarkey, there were players on the football field yesterday (who) weren’t there to play rugby league.”
Clarke: “Yeah, well you set a standard at the start of the game as well.”
Rothfield: “They did set a standard!”
Clarke: “Mate, they sent someone off for flicking his ear. Give me a break.”
Rothfield: “Listen, I’ll tell you what the problem is with rugby league – and I’ve been banging on about it for a couple of years – is that we have the world’s softest judiciary. So, players will go out there and do these head-high tackles, they’ll risk going to the sin bin, but they know they’ll be fine and they won’t get a decent suspension like what used to happen in the old days.
“Even sin bins now mean bugger all. They mean bugger all. Souths were reduced to 11 players yesterday for 10 minutes and they won that section of the game 6-0. So, until they get serious and put players out of these games for that shocking bloody head slam that (Jared) Waerea-Hargreaves did on Tom Burgess and all those high tackles.
“Clarkey don’t play them down, until players start getting suspended for their actions, nothing will change. The sin bin doesn’t work anymore.”
Rothfield admitted the early sin binning of Victor Radley “was a bit of an overreaction”, but supported Klein’s hard stance from the match in general.
Clarke: “What about the winger for Souths, when he got sent off for touching someone’s cheek on the ground? How dare you touch his cheek in a game of rugby league.”
Rothfield: “How many sin bins should there have been?”
Clarke: “Two? I’ll give you three, max.”
Rothfield: “Did you actually watch this game?”
Clarke: “Mate, it’s the NRL mate. It’s at the highest level. That’s the sport. It’s like, you know what? Don’t bowl bouncers in cricket. Don’t bowl bouncers. Because if it hits you in the head, it hurts … you have to pitch the ball up only. That’s what we’re trying to create in rugby league.”
Rothfield: “You know Trent Robinson wasn’t dirty? He blamed his players. If you guys want to watch rugby league like that, go and watch UFC — it was rubbish, that game.”
Clarke: “I watch that (UFC) as well. The referring was rubbish.”
Rothfield: “Give me Cronulla, Canberra and the skills we saw on Saturday night.”
Clarke: “Give me State of Origin any day of the week.”
Rothfield: “Give me some skill out of yesterday’s game. Give me some skill. Seriously.”
The fully blown argument got a bit personal when Clarke suggested that Tom Burgess should have been sin binned for concussing Roosters skipper James Tedesco with a brutal tackle that saw him sidelined for the rest of the game.
The NRL has since charged Burgess with a grade two careless high tackle, which will rule the Rabbitohs star out until the grand final if he pleads guilty.
Rothfield agreed that Burgess should have been sent to the bin for the tackle, but couldn’t believe Clarke only drew the line there.
Rothfield: “Now you’re getting serious Clarkey? It should have been a send-off? Right, okay.”
Clarke: “If that’s not inconsistency right in front of you I don’t know what is.”
Rothfield: “If you knew more about rugby league, right…”
Clarke: “Oh here we go. Here we go. Here we go.”
Rothfield: “You know nothing about it.”
Clarke: “You know everything because you played 100 Test matches? Continue. You watch the same TV I watch. I’ve watched it for 41 years, you’ve watched it for 80. You’ve played the exact same amount of Origin games as me”
Rothfield: “Clarkey, not one decision in a send-off these days, is made by the on-field referee. Not one of them.”
Clarke: “Then you know what, Buzz? Take the on-field referee away then. If we’re just going to go with the bunker to rule the game, don’t have anyone out there. The on-field ref has to have control. Yes, he gets advised by the bunker but it must be his decision, otherwise get him off the field! It’s not different to a DRS, mate, in cricket”
Rothfield: “Isn’t it? Okay.
“Did you enjoy yesterday’s game? If you enjoyed yesterday’s game, seriously, it was a shocking advertisement for rugby league and for you blokes seriously to be blaming the referee…”
Daley – who took a backseat for most of the exchange, but was clearly in support of Clarke – then stepped in.
Daley: “Well, Buzz, who else are you going to blame? Tedesco gets taken out with a high shot, nothing gets done. You said we’re blaming the referee – so what should have happened to the referee there? What should the referee have done? He done nothing – so who’s fault is that? Not mine; it’s not Clarkey’s – it’s the referee’s.”
Rothfield: “To blame Ashley Klein for the debacle yesterday – he would not have sent one of those guys off to the sin bin, without backing from the bunker. I can tell you that now.
“All I know is the feud between Souths and Easts has now got out of control, and that there were that many cheap shots out there yesterday, it was not good for rugby league. It was not. And I can’t recall more than two or three really skillful moments in that game. It was all about bashing people and that’s not right.”
You can listen to the entire discussion here.