Meninga's plea for fast footy in finals
Australian coach Mal Meninga has implored the referees to allow the Kangaroos to play an entertaining style of football in Friday's quarter-final against Samoa despite opposition teams purposely trying to stifle their attack.
Meninga reached out to World Cup referees' boss Tony Archer during the week after becoming frustrated by the stop-start nature of his side's clash with Lebanon at the Sydney Football Stadium last Saturday night.
"I had a bit of a yarn to [Archer]," Meninga said in Darwin on the eve of the knockout match against Samoa.
"That's what it was all about – the four best referees taking control of some very, very crucial games.
"We all know it's all knock-out now. We want to make sure we're all well-refereed and the ruck speed is how it should be. That's all we're after."
There's a belief among the Kangaroos that opposition teams want to disrupt their rhythm by slowing the ruck and adding to the number of stoppages.
The 21 penalties conceded by Lebanon had the desired effect, forcing Australia into a number of uncharacteristic errors.
"That's the way you beat us [slowing us down], so yeah, obviously that's the way you're going to try," Meninga said.
"That's with any game of rugby league, you're going to try and slow the ruck speed down so that your defence can adjust and get off the line. All teams do that but it's around how many seconds you're actually allowed to lay in the tackle or hands in the tackle or slow the play the ball down in some fashion.
"Just [keep it] fair, that's all we ask. And be allowed to play footy. That's all we want to do. We want to entertain – that's what the World Cup is all about. It's the showpiece of our game."
The Kangaroos have been strong in defence throughout the World Cup but have at times looked disjointed with the ball. Meninga's preference to chop and change his side over the opening three weeks hasn't helped in that department.
Billy Slater, who returns to the No.1 jersey against Samoa after a week's break, admitted he's treating this year's World Cup as potentially his final outing in the green and gold.
"When you get towards the back end of your career, you look at it a little bit different," Slater said.
"You always appreciate the opportunities you get when you play representative footy especially for your country. I'm 34 now. I'm not silly. I know it's coming towards the end and this might be the last time I get to play in the green and gold jersey. I'm relishing the moment.
"I feel great. My body is better than it was 12 months ago. I'm really enjoying my footy as I have done all year. When you miss a couple of years you enjoy it because you've got it again."