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NRL Lobs Us an Irresistible Language Softball Courtesy of Cleary

As ink-stained wretches who ply language (butcher might be the better adjective) day-in-day-out, we are naturally intrigued by some of the idiosyncrasies of our language.

In our cases, the proper term might be idiot-syncracies, but that is a topic for another time.

So, when Penrith Panthers’ coach Ivan Cleary was possibly involved in a discussion during halftime of the Panthers’ 30 – 18 loss to the Canberra Raiders in Round 19 of the Telstra 2019 NRL Premiership competition, we were stimulated when we came across one of Cleary’s comments informing us, “I might’ve spoken to them (the refs), yeah, possibly. You can ask them. It was nothing untoward,” our language radar started pinging urgently.

We have all heard “untoward” used to describe speech and behaviour that is less than exemplary.

In Cleary’s case, it is up to the NRL to decide if Cleary committed a violation by speaking to NRL officials at halftime, but we are unclear if that includes such inquiries as, “How’s your mum, then?” or if the conversation must be game-related in a manner that suggests the referees are officiating poorly.

If one of the match officials was to tell NRL head of football Graham Annesley, “Yeah, Cleary spoke to us and his comments were most certainly toward,” Cleary could face a warning or a fine.

Toward is naturally the opposite to untoward, correct?

We could possibly issue some sort of sanction toward Cleary for speaking as though he were living in the 19th century, but it is hard to fault a football coach who exhibits any sign of intellectual acuity.

Intelligent as Cleary may be, he has yet to discover the solution that would make the Panthers perform better.

They are languishing seventh on the NRL ladder, although of late, they have been rounding into finals form as winners of three of their last four.

Nothing untoward about that, but on the other hand, if we were to mention Penrith’s negative point differential…