Another game and another card against Troy Flavell for foul play. It is something most critics expected and predicted. Yet Blues coach David Nucifora has jumped to the defence of his captain.
Flavell was yellow carded for stomping in the 71st minute of his team’s 34-25 win over the defending Super 14 champions, the Crusaders, in Auckland last Friday. Television footage suggested a punch may also have been throw.
It was certainly not the first time Flavell had been carded for foul play in his career. In fact he has been suspended on a number of occasions.
Even with his poor disciplinary track record Nucifora decided to name him as captain for the first half of the season, because Keven Mealamu – who lead the side last year – is one of the conditioning All Blacks who won’t be available for the first eight weeks of the competition.
And after Flavell was carded again at the weekend, Nucifora jumped to his defence.
He made it more than clear, when speaking to media after the match, that he thought Flavell had been extremely hard done by to be dispatched to the bin by referee Paul Honiss.
Flavell said after the game that he’d been “disappointed and frustrated” by the decision that left his side vulnerable to a late Crusaders rally.
“Those are things that can’t sneak into our game,” added Flavell. “We’ve got to be a lot bigger than that. [But] it’s only one game and we’ll move on next week.”
Asked by the New Zealand media if he’d meant he was “disappointed” and “frustrated” with himself or the decision, Nucifora jumped to his captain’s defence.
“I’d say with the decision,” said the Blues coach emphatically. “You guys saw it up there. It looked like it was someone lying over the ball and we were rucking for the ball. It’s more disappointment with the way it panned out more than anything else.”
The Blues coach spoke of his frustration with match officials who allow the opposition to slow down the ball at the tackled-ball area.
“I mean, what do you do?” Nucifora said in his captain’s defence.
“We have been in trouble before, obviously, and it has been against the Crusaders before as other teams have found. The team that gets in trouble does so for putting their boots on them and yet you feel you need the referee to help you out. If you are not going to be able to put boots on them what are you to do?
“These days most blokes are well over 100kg and when they are lying down there is no other way to move them. You can’t clean someone out when they are that low to the ground or on the ground, so you have to leave it up to the referee if you can’t use your feet on them,” Nucifora said.
“Otherwise if there is that sort of [Flavell] treatment for everyone who puts a boot on someone, there will be a lot more people spending time in the sin bin this year.”