It was the only incident that escaped scrutiny from last year’s Sin-Bin Sunday – but it has not been forgotten at South Sydney.
A fired-up Victor Radley was given a 10-minute timeout twice during last year’s explosive elimination final, which featured seven sin-binnings, but he was lucky to avoid being sanctioned a third time for an act involving superstar Latrell Mitchell approaching the half hour mark.
Mitchell was laying on top of Roosters winger Kevin Naiqama when an angry Radley marched over, grabbed his face from behind and then wrenched his head backwards towards the Allianz Stadium turf.
Mitchell did not react to the incident and Radley was never cited, but the NRL match review committee, who to be fair had their work cut out after that fiery clash, did not even issue a concerning act notice.
Souths players this week watched the incident, and while they said it was “not a good look”, said it was perhaps a classic example of why the oldest and wildest derby in rugby league should be officiated like a State of Origin game.
“I don’t think people realised what happened at the time, but looking at it now, it obviously doesn’t look good,” Souths prop Junior Tatola said, as he watched the Radley replay this week.
Victor Radley and Latrell Mitchell in last year’s elimination final.Credit:Nine
“Victor gets fired up. That’s how he plays.”
Souths forward Keaon Koloamatangi added: “That was spur of the moment from Victor. It gets heated out there. There are words said and a few elbows in tackles.
“You just have to stick with it, give it back, but don’t get sin-binned. Victor plays the game tough. I’ve played against him all my life. He was the same when I played with Mascot and he was with Clovelly. It was like the Rabbitohs and Roosters. Clovelly were a Roosters club, and you never want to lose to the Roosters.”
Tom Burgess, who became friends with Radley during England’s World Cup campaign – the pair, along with Elliott Whitehead, became known among the host nation playing group as the ‘Three Pigs’ – said the lack of punishment on that occasion was why the Roosters stoush needed to be adjudicated differently.
Bin bonanza: Breakdown of a chaotic Roosters-Rabbitohs derby
5th minute: Roosters lock Victory Radley sin-binned for a punch on Taane Milne
19th minute: Souths prop Tom Burgess binned for high tackle on Matt Lodge
20th minute: Rabbitohs winger Taane Milne sin-binned for high tackle on Joseph Suaalii
51st minute: Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves sin-binned for a head slam on Tom Burgess
61st minute: Radley sin-binned again, and Rabbitohs prop Tevita Tatola also sin-binned, for punching
66th minute: Milne sin-binned a second time, for a high tackle on Connor Watson
“I don’t mind that [incident], and with the intensity of this game being up there with Origin, from what I’ve heard, the refs could take a leaf out of the Origin handbook and let things slide a bit,” Burgess said.
“We’re not being daft, and if people are hit in the head intentionally, there needs to be action.
“But Latrell didn’t react on that occasion, and he got on with things. That’s Victor. He’s passionate. So is Latrell. So are our players. And you’ll see that passion on Friday.”
Radley has often been accused of crossing the line with his aggression, but Roosters skipper and good friend James Tedesco said he had seen things in recent times to suggest the lock forward was maturing. Radley has even started being more vocal and taking ownership in team meetings.
“He’s got more of that cold-blooded mentality now rather than letting the emotions take over,” Tedesco told the Herald.
“We had a discussion a couple of times, especially in 2021 when he was sin-binned twice in the one game. After that, he felt like he wasn’t aggressive enough, and he wasn’t playing his best footy because he was worried about not being too emotional.
“He’s been trying to find the right balance. He’s definitely not putting his head in the sand and saying, ‘I’ll be right’. He had a great World Cup, he’s growing, he’s maturing off the field, and hopefully we see that on the field.”
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