Regarded as the toughest game in the world in some parts, rugby league players are increasingly taking on the prima donna acting attempts you would be more accustomed to see in soccer in order to gain an edge. With the video ref being able to put in his two cents whenever there is a stoppage, some players are taking advantage by staying down when they get tapped on the face. It’s a growing trend on the verge of being a genuine issue that can be avoided before it’s to late.

Rugby league is a contact sport and players are going to be wrapped around the chops from time to time. If a referee doesn’t see it as a penalty the first time, there wasn’t much in it and the referee has made a subjective decision to play on. The introduction of the video ref and his ability to stick his oar in only slows down the game.

The NRL made rule changes in an effort to speed up the game this season. While the changes they have made have seemingly provided a quicker game when the ball is in play, nothing is being done to address the growing issue of flopping. As players become more aware of how easy it is to get away with, the NRL runs the risk of a game sooner or later being decided on who can do the best acting job.

“Stay down” has been heard though the on field microphones more than once already this season, often resulting in a penalty for that player who then makes a miraculous recovery once the referee blows his whistle. Some players are quite happy to make themselves look soft on television to give their team a chance of being awarded a penalty, but for those that aren’t, they are playing the game the way fans expect it to be played.

Any longtime NRL fan knows milking penalties has always been part of the game and always will be. It was previously an art form, something some players were genuinely good at but milking a penalty has always involved an element of risk. A player trying to make it look like he was stripped runs the risk of being called for a knock on. The same risk applies for milking the penalty for a player lying around the ruck, that will be called for a sloppy play of the ball if not executed correctly. These days it’s as simple as laying on the ground long enough with the worst case scenario being a breather for yourself and teammates.

The quick fix for this; fine any player deemed to be simulating or exaggerating contact in order to receive a penalty. Given the NRL judiciary’s inconsistency with every other rule in the game, it won’t take long before players don’t even risk milking the penalty and get up to play the ball straight away. In a game where most players are underpaid compared to other such physical sports, running the risk of losing some of their match earnings will have them think twice before staying down.

Fewer sports signify manliness more than rugby league. Before the NRL gets the unshakable reputation European football has of being softer than fresh faeces, this issue needs to be addressed. It can be acknowledged and extinct in a matter of weeks if the decision makers in the NRL have the wherewithal to do something about it.