Manly Sea Eagles defy penalty count pain to climb NRL ladder

TRENT Barrett’s concerns about unbalanced penalty counts appear to carry some weight, but the stats don’t support Ricky Stuart’s claims.

If the NRL ladder was based on winning penalty counts, Manly would be dead last by a long way.

But the Sea Eagles have somehow overcome being the team with the most unfavourable run with the referees this season to sit in sixth place and within touching distance of the all-important top four.

Fox Sports Stats show Barrett’s men have won just two penalty counts from their 20 matches this season. Their 10 per cent win rate is easily the worst of any club.

Parramatta are next, having won only five penalty counts so far in 2017.

North Queensland have won 14 penalty counts this season, easily the most of any club. The Cowboys have lost just three counts to give them a decisive advantage on the field.

Despite Stuart’s complaints about referees, the Raiders have won 10 penalty counts, drawn four and lost four this season. But it hasn’t helped them be in a position to contest finals footy this season.

Of the current top-eight sides, seven are at the bottom of penalty counts won, along with would-be wooden spooners Newcastle.

The Sea Eagles and Eels have both lost 15 penalty counts this year, with the latter drawing three.

Overall, Manly have conceded 133 penalties this season, equal with Melbourne as the most of any club, yet have only been awarded 106.

Barrett denied his players had a discipline problem on the field as he’s guided the Sea Eagles to 11 wins.

“No, I don’t think so,” Barrett said.

“Some referees referee teams differently.

“It feels at times that we do get harshly scrutinised by referees, yeah.

“The penalties are across the board and we don’t seem to get the 50-50s this year. If there is a glaring area where we’re poor, we would certainly work on it.

“All we say about the referees and penalties is that they’re consistent. Consistent for both sides.

“Look, it’s not something I put a big focus on but we want our players to be disciplined.”

Manly won’t be able to lose penalty counts against top-two sides Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters in the next two rounds and expect to win.

The Sea Eagles’ coaching staff were last night breaking down the exact on-field areas where penalties were occurring.

“In terms of winning penalty counts, it definitely helps if you’re on the right end,” Barrett said.

Melbourne sit atop the NRL competition ladder despite having won only six penalty counts this season. That is still four more than the Sea Eagles, their opponents at AAMI Park this Sunday afternoon.

In fact, the bottom four teams with losing penalty counts are inside the top eight — Sydney Roosters, Melbourne, Parramatta and Manly.