An NRL crackdown on players giving away penalties close to their own try line will come a week too late for the Canberra Raiders.
The competition's head of football Graham Annesley conceded South Sydney Rabbitohs captain Sam Burgess probably should have been sent to the sin following a flurry of indiscretions against the Raiders last weekend.
Burgess gave away five of his team's eight penalties in the first half of its 16-12 win at Canberra Stadium. At one point, Burgess gave away four penalties in a row.
Teams slowing down the ruck and being willing to give away penalties to stop attacking momentum has been a massive problem in the competition in recent years.
Had Burgess been sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes in the first half, it would have given the Raiders a chance to exploit his absence. In the end, Burgess stayed on the field and the Raiders had to settle for a four-point defeat.
Asked if Burgess should have been sent to the sin bin, Annesley said: "I think there was certainly a case for that.
"There is no direction given not to send players to the sin bin for consistent breaches of the laws. There was probably another case in the same game when the same option could have been considered. I'm not saying those decisions were either right or wrong, that's the role of the referees' coach. What I'm saying is there's no requirement of players to receive a warning.
"You can't have a blanket rule ... it would depend on field position and circumstances for those penalties.
"In many cases they are deliberate attempts to slow the game down and stop teams from scoring.
"There is no requirement to give a warning. If they need to do that, they can. [But] it's not a one-sized fits all, it's not an edict. I said at the start of the year there won't be any edicts and there haven't been. We can't just have cookie cutter examples from game to game and referee to referee."
A weekly high of 125 penalties were doled out across last weekend's eight games - the highest for any round and up from just 86 five weeks ago - but it was where they were being issued which has raised concern for League Central.
A record 38 per cent of those penalties came when teams were defending their own tryline, but Annesley stopped short of issuing an edict to every club.
"That is a worry," Annesley said of the statistics. "We're aware of it and we are telling clubs publicly that this is an unacceptable approach to this area of the game. It will continue to result in more penalties and we will see, no doubt if this trend continues, more players going to the sin bin.
"This is now what we want. This is not what we set out to do. I hope that by bringing this into the public domain today we'll see a similar adjustment by players and coaches. If it's not adjusted there will be consequences."
Annesley stressed the tool was available to whistleblowers if defences kept flaunting the rules in a bid to slow down sides deep on the attack. NRL figures revealed average play-the-ball speeds were faster than at any stage in the last four years.
Eighteen per cent of total penalties issued during the last round resulted in penalty goals, up from seven per cent and six per cent in the opening two rounds of the season.