Referee inexperience was Origin’s worst decision
What was the worst refereeing decision in State of Origin I? Was it Michael Jennings’ sin binning for throwing a blind punch?
Or Greg Inglis’ controversial try, which sealed yet another victory for Queensland?
How about the idea of appointing two referees who had refereed one Origin match between them?
Referees boss Bill Harrigan should have a long hard look in the mirror after giving the nod to Matt Cecchin and Ben Cummins to referee game one.
It was a lack of experience that caused the referees to make two dud calls that ultimately cost NSW victory in game one.
The nerves and excitement got the better of the men in charge; Cecchin’s rash decision to punish Michael Jennings in the 24th minute changed the complexion of the entire game.
Its hard enough for NSW to beat Queensland with 13 players, let alone 12.
The controversial try was out of the control of the on-field referees.
But if the video referee had a high definition monitor the decision to award Greg Inglis the try may have come out differently.
These two game-changing decisions were well documented but it was the smaller facets like the ruck speed and 10-metre rule which factored heavily in the Game One outcome.
Players and coaches alike will never fail to tell you the speed of an Origin game is much faster than that of a regular club game.
The referees did not adapt to the increased speed from the outset.
The pair have refereed 274 NRL first-grade games between them, so it was natural that they would feel inclined to referee at the same speed as a typical club match.
The players noticed the extra leniency and took advantage by slowing down the play the ball and laid on tackles to halt any momentum the attacking side had created.
It may seem as if I am degrading the referee’s ability.
But don’t think for one second I think these two are bad referees.
Cecchin is arguably the best referee in the game and made his much-deserved State of Origin debut.
Cecchin was partnered with Cummins, the man who had made his debut in game two of last year’s series.
Before Game One the two had never refereed a representative game together.
And that’s the point: experience in Origin is invaluable. That applies for referees as much as it does players.
Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne are the two most experienced referees, having refereed in 19 origin games – that’s the equivalent of over six Origin series.
The better idea would have been to pair up Cecchin with Tony Archer, Shayne Hayne with Cummins or vice versa.
That way the younger referees would feel more confident making bigger decisions because they could rely on someone who has done it before.
After the fight broke out, Cecchin asked Cummins, a man with one-game of Origin experience, for advice on how to handle the situation.
And, ultimately, they both panicked.
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