Seyfarth and Sezer in hot water after headbutts and hip drops as 11-man Tigers implode in Bulldogs defeat


Benji Marshall has plenty of kids in his side and, sitting 14-6 to the good at half time over the Bulldogs, he might have turned to the elder statesmen in the sheds and asked them to help steer the ship to victory.

Instead, the Tigers conceded 18 unanswered points to lose 22-14 and ended up with 11 men in the final stages.

Two of Marshall’s more senior players let him down badly, with Aiden Sezer set for a ban after a shocking hip drop and David Klemmer sat down late for dissent.

Another who should know better, Alex Seyfarth lost his head completely: he had already tried to put a shot on Jacob Kiraz, sparking an all-in brawl in which he aimed a headbutt at Reed Mahoney.

He was binned and will surely face a ban. Sezer, who should have been binned, will be very lucky indeed to avoid a ban as well.

“It’s simple: you’ve got to have discipline,” said Marshall.

“We’re eight points down and still a chance in the game so to lose two players and play with 11 for the last eight minutes, that’s not us.

“With emotion in the game, we expect better from some of our players. We had a lot of calls go against us that frustrated us a bit and that build up took its toll in the end. We had three challenges that we ended up winning and got told at the end that we didn’t have our challenge.

“The frustration built up but it’s first grade rugby league and whether you’re young or old, you’ve still got to be disciplined. Those two things to get sin binned were both silly.”

Referee Kasey Badger had struggled to keep a lid on proceedings for most of the second half and it was no surprise when it exploded.

Her decision not to bin Sezer was inexplicable, and after spending most of the final half hour in lengthy conversation with John Bateman, it was not surprising that her patience ran out with Klemmer.

Bit of a scuffle and a stray head-butt for your Saturday afternoon at Homebush.

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Marshall’s men had led 14-6 at the break but were steamrollered in the second half, barely getting out of their own half as the Bulldogs turned the screw.

Cameron Ciraldo will be delighted with the manner of the win. His side never panicked when behind and trusted their ability to win the long game.

The Tigers assisted them by deviating from the expansive gameplan that had brought them into a position of superiority, then losing their discipline completely.

The Hutchison problem

Canterbury were criticised in their recruitment policy, which saw them operate slightly back to front by strengthening considerably in some areas but remaining painfully light in key positions, such as halfback and front row.

That was clear in the first half today: though the Tigers had two teenagers in their spine and a veteran, Aiden Sezer, they were all at least square pegs in square holes.

The Bulldogs had Drew Hutchison, a runner, paired with Matt Burton, a runner, with Blake Taaffe, a runner, out the back. Guess what they did?

Hutchison has one line break assist in eight games so far this year, the fewest of anyone to have play either halfback or five eighth in 2024.

Hutchison also ranks among the least for line engagements, meaning he either runs the footy directly or passes it miles from the line.

It’s not that he’s a bad player, or that he had a particularly bad game.

Messy start, but a clean finish for the Bulldogs.

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In fact, it was a superb run from the 7 that won the ruck from which Reed Mahoney, the Dogs’ most successful creative outlet this year, put Kurt Mann over.

It was also Hutchison’s kick that teed up Josh Curran for the first try of the second stanza.

He’s a big body in the halves and he’s fairly consistent week to week, but in all the soft skills you’d want, Hutchison is miles off.

The upshot is that the current frontrunners for 2024 in terms of line break assists are Viliame Kikau and Stephen Crichton, because they are getting early ball, but it does beg the question of what might happen if Canterbury had someone who was a halfback playing halfback.

It’s great that they’re offering such threat, but you’d want your halfback to chip in with more creatively, especially given that Burton is doing the bulk of the kicking.

Canterbury managed four line breaks – the same as the Tigers – but only one was by dint of a pass, and that came from prop forward Max King.

How’s the chase from Josh Curran?

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Today, it ended up not being a problem: the Tigers’ edge defence was plenty poor enough, especially around Sezer, for the Dogs to find the points that they needed.

Mann before the break and Burton in the second, for Bronson Xerri’s try, were able to expose the halfback in the line and find a way through.

That showed what Hutchison does bring – his defence is excellent – and he is clearly good enough to play in this team.

He doesn’t, however, do many of the things that you’d want your halfback to do. It’s an issue for Ciraldo that won’t go away.

The Tigers stuck between two ideas

When the Tigers have looked best under Benji Marshall, it’s been when they’ve played without fear.

The coach mentioned in the build-up that he wanted his side to move the Bulldogs around, and early on, that seemed to be the best strategy.

The first try, to Charlie Staines, was a superb shift from deep within their own end that saw Sezer, Lachlan Galvin and Jahream Bula all combine to get their man away.

That endeavour, however, disappeared. Wests got stuck into a grind, gradually losing field position and impetus in the game. They played Canterbury’s game.

The Tigers from their OWN 20!

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Bateman had been ballplaying, Galvin was pulling the strings and Bula was able to get into the game, but soon all of that went away and the Tigers reverted to one-out then side to side.

It’s hard to commit to that kind of football when things start to go against you, because the natural instinct is to try to hold onto the footy and regroup.

It’s counterintuitive, however. Conservatism breeds feat which emboldens opponents and, ultimately, leads to mistakes.

For a team like the Tigers, against most other sides in the comp, it’s not going to work. They can’t grind their way to a win. They have to play more footy.

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