Inside The Sin Bin: A Look Back On Some Of NRL’s Biggest Hits

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Over the weekend NRL history was made with a huge clash between the Rabbitohs and the Roosters which resulted in 7 sin bins.

That’s the highest number of sin bins in the history of the game.

Finals footy is always a hotly contested, nail-biting 80 minutes but the added level of rivalry between the Roosters and Rabbitohs conjured a ‘State of Origin-esque’ energy that saw big hits and even bigger send-offs.

South Sydney Rabbitohs player Damien Cook was shocked with how many sin bins were given out over the game.

“It was crazy to hear that’s what it was at the end. I knew we’d been down to 11 players at a couple of stages in the game but 7 total, 7 is a lot,” said Cook.

Rabbitohs teammate Campbell Graham embraced the emotionally charged game and said it was one of the most satisfying games he’s been involved in playing first grade NRL.

“It’s always great beating the Roosters,” said Graham, “but to do it in that atmosphere and that sort of environment with the stakes on the line. It was great to be involved in and I really enjoyed it.”

(Latrell Mitchell and Connor Watson during the NRL Elimination Final match. Image: Mark Kolbe)

If you’re unsure what a sin bin actually is, TLDR: a player gets sent off the field for 10 minutes and into ‘the bin.’ This can occur due to a dangerous play or for doing something the ref deems against the rules.

Despite the knee-jerk reaction that referees are ruining the game by increasing the amount of sin bins, they actually have the ability to be beneficial to the team that has received the call.

Of course this is not always the case but in some games, especially around finals, it has the potential to benefit the team that has been sin binned. This is because players have to dig deep and kick into another gear to make up for losing a player.

Additionally the other team can struggle to attack against a defensive line that isn’t 13 players and requires the defence line to lift if they want to shut down plays.

From a spectators view, a sin bin call is loaded with dynamism and catharsis. It creates an emotionally intensified narrative arc and when the sin bin player returns onto the field after 10 minutes they are both enemy number one for the opposing team but also have a point to prove to redeem themselves to their own team.

The first person to be sin binned was Newtown Jets hooker Barry Jensen in 1981. Prior to this players could be sent off for the whole game but this was disruptive and the NSW Rugby Football league was looking for a rule that was less punitive.

So in 1981 the sin bin was brought in and first exercised when the Newtown Jets went up against Parramatta. Barry Jensen was dubbed the first ‘sinner’ for a repeated ruck infringement early in the second half.

(Image: Newtown Jets)

Despite the name conjuring up a mental picture of a special spooky room, players just go to their dressing room to wait out their time before they can come back into play.

But while a player is in the sin bin, this means that the team has to continue playing a person down, or in the case of the game between the Rabbitohs and Roosters on the weekend quite a few players down.

Damien Cook said he found it fitting that these two teams now hold the record for the highest number of sin bins.

“The games are always quite intense anyway with the rivalry built up by the fans and the history of the game,” Cook told Junkee. “It’ll be part of the book of feuds which is all about the history of these two teams,” he said.

The rivalry between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Roosters is the longest and most relentless feud in the game. It started back in 1908 when Souths beat Easts in the first ever grand final.

The teams share a boundary and are both fighting for the heart-beat of inner Sydney.

The rivalry is known as the book of feuds and has been playing out over the past 114 years, so it feels fitting that this history-making game is another chapter in this legacy.

Rabbitohs captain Cameron Murray shared that “it’s always good to be part of history, it’ll definitely be one to remember, one for the history books.”

Games between the two sides have already seen some of the most memorable sin bin moments like the iconic spat that played out between David Fa’alogo and Braith Anasta in 2007.

Outside of the book of feuds, when South Sydney Rabbitohs players Cameron Murray and Campbell Graham were asked about their favourite sin bin moments one iconic clash came to mind: the battle of Brookvale.

The Battle of Brookvale in 2011 saw a huge rivalry between the Manly Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm boil over in an all player brawl that resulted in 4 sin bins and a send off.

As we draw closer to the premiership we’ll be sure to see more sin bins, which at their heart are put in place to protect the players and the game at large.

For the book of feuds, this game sets a new standard for the Souths and Roosters rivalry especially when the games are played at Allianz Stadium, where both teams are fighting for the emotional ownership of the ground.