How to improve the standard of NRL referees
The in-fighting among the whistlers must stop.
It’s undermining their standing in the rugby league community, and their image, especially as it’s emanating from referees who aren’t good enough to carry Harrigan’s boots.
And never will be.
So why is the overall standard of rugby league referees so low?
Consistency is the first major point: nobody will ever contest that wish. Consistency went missing the moment two referees surfaced.
Human nature ensures no two referees will ever think alike, nor have the same reaction time. That’s where consistency falls apart.
Even permanent pairings will never bridge the gap between the think alike, nor reaction time. They may well understand each other better, but the human nature differences will always be there.
The quicker the ARLC decides to return to one referee the better. It’s far easier for one ref to give consistent rulings than two.
To offset the loss of one referee, have four touchies, each covering half the field. Their prime job would be in direct communication with the referee, to verbally assist him with forward passes, knock-ons, off-side, and foul play.
As they have only half the field to cover, the touchies are better positioned to rule on back-play and runaways. Every aspect of the game is covered.
It’s not at the moment.
The final decision rests with the sole referee, but he has eight extra eyes watching every move and the chances of the correct decision would be greatly increased.
To support that situation, can the captain’s right to query a referee’s decision. He is the sole judge and fans won’t have to watch the recent player-referee confrontations, like Paul Gallen with Matt Cecchin and the Braith Anasta-Michael Ennis verbals with Jason Robinson, ever again.
To compensate, allow captains two review decisions every game by the video referee, as in cricket. Every review upheld still leaves two in the captain’s hands.
A knockback and a review is lost until both are gone.
That makes the appointment of the video ref as important as the game ref. But the overall suggested changes have sealed the cracks, not papered over them.
The second major point is the method, or lack of it, of finding the refs of the future.
There are 22 full-time NRL referees, and it’s Harrigan and Raper’s job to improve them. So it would be in the best interests of those 22 to listen, rather than try to lynch, their coaches.
But pressure must be put on the 22 by the up-and-comers if the right system was in operation.
There are 769 qualified referees in Queensland over 18, and 600 in NSW. The CRL has 641 over 16.
That’s a tick over 2,000 budding NRL whistlers. The law of averages suggests there would be at least 20, just 1%, very capable of first grade NRL status.
But who is finding them?
Harrigan and Raper need a few experts, like Noel Cleal. The former Kangaroo is the undisputed prince of unearthing young and unknown raw player-talent just busting to become quality NRL first graders, or better.
The Cleal touch can so easily be applied to referees.
Rugby league has always been a great game. My first recollections are of Clive Churchill, Len Smith, Len Cowie, Wally O’Connell, Bobby Diamond, and Johnny Graves. And over the period I’ve written about and called the 13-man code on radio.
It’s in my blood.
But as great as it is, rugby league can be even better.
It needs a lot more lateral thinking officials in decision-making positions to achieve that reachable target.