Video referees have been a total failure
How long can the NRL persist with the current use of the video referee and still look at itself in the mirror everyday and justify pride in its performance.
The two referee system this year has been fantastic and will understandably take time to develop, as the game now needs 20 to 22 professional standard referees.
However, the video referee has been going rapidly downhill since it was first brought into play in 1997, and is more flawed than the ridiculous challenge system brought into cricket.
There is a limited place for the video referee. It needs to be used purely to judge on grounding of the ball in the in-goal area, with all field-of-play decisions left up to the two referees and the two touch judges.
In its current form, all the video referee has done is cloud over and complicate what is essentially a simple game.
Wednesday night’s no try decision against Jarryd Hayne in the State of Origin was embarrassing in more ways than one. Whether video referees Tim Mander and Bill Harrigan got the decision right was highly debatable, but the length of time the decision took and the positioning of the touch judge left even more to be desired.
Why have touch judges been allowed inside the line during the course of play, as was the case on Wednesday night?
The touch judge should not be in the field of play, and instead should be closely watching whether players put a foot on the line, as well as being positioned to call forward passes or any infringements in back play.
The video referee also became involved when Ben Creagh scored, but there were no issues with the grounding of the ball.
The only concern may have been the pass from Jarryd Hayne, but the video referee can’t rule on a forward pass. It was a classic case of a lack of confidence in the decision-making of on-field referees Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne.
The fans can accept referees making mistakes on the run. What they can’t accept is misuse of technology and the blatant mistakes that have resulted.
The Jamal Idris no try decision at the climax of the Dragons V Bulldogs match remains one of the worst decisions in modern rugby league history. Steve Clark was handed a token week off where instead of making decisions, he was speaking at functions – some punishment for terrible call that referees boss Robert Finch conceded was wrong.
There are also insane quirks in the application of the video referee. In 2005, Penrith’s Rhys Wesser made a long break down the field against Canberra, but it was obvious he had made an error.
At that time, Wesser – a noted flyer – would have reached the tryline without question, but on this occasion allowed himself to be reined in by the Raiders defence 10m from the try line. By Wesser not crossing the try-line, the video referee option was gone. And because the referee had allowed play to continue expecting Wesser to score, he could not go back to Wesser’s original error.
Penrith scored two tackles later, and replays confirmed Wesser’s earlier error.
The ‘video referee’ should only exist to supply footage that assists the two on-field referees looking at the big screen making decisions on tries, and on grounding in the in-goal area.
The video referee shouldn’t be used for anything else, and certainly should not be a post-retirement junket for former referees no longer in touch with the modern game.
It’s worth contrasting how decisions would be made on tries, before and after the video referee was introduced.
In the days before the video, referee Eddie Ward was quick to award the following try and sin bin Canberra’s Jason Croker for talking out the Bulldogs’ Craig Polla-Mounter off the ball. Croker firstly made a poor read of defence on Canterbury’s Matthew Ryan and then took out Polla-Mounter after he passed the ball to Rod Silva.
Today, many video referees would likely have argued Ryan interfered with Croker and that Croker was impeded by Polla-Mounter in his attempts to get to Silva.
Croker’s collision with Polla-Mounter could be likened to Jamie Soward’s with Greg Eastwood in the Bulldogs Vs Dragons – that led to the Idris no try – except that Croker was more aggressive in his actions.
It’s time to put the ownership of the game back with the men in the middle and not with dinosaurs in the stands. Officials forget rugby league is about the players and the people.
If match officials stay out of the spotlight, they will have done a great service maintaining what rugby league is all about.
In Discord Edition #8 this week, respected Rugby League reporter Steve Mascord talks about all the ins and outs from last Wednesday’s opening State of Origin match including the Baby Blues fightback, the two Jarryd Hayne incidents, how Terry Campese deserves another chance and has a solution to avoid the controversy of NSW turning up 90 minutes late to a promotional clinic. Plus Discord dispels the myth that no one cared about the game in ‘Mexico’ and points out that the game has come a long way forward. Matthew O’Neill is a Director and Columnist with www.rleague.com