Make some noise for the NRL referees
NRL referees co-coach Bill Harrigan speaks to the media about some of the controversial referee calls during last nights State of Origin during a press conference at Rugby League Central in Sydney, Thursday, May 24, 2012. The NSW Blues lost to Queensland in the first of three State of Origin matches. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Rugby league thrives on conspiracies, paranoia and rumour mongering. Chances are if these don’t involve Todd Carney’s nocturnal habits, they’ll involve the game’s men in pink.
Just think of all the grassy knoll officiating moments that have engulfed the game over the years. Darcey Lawler’s inability to count to six. Bill Harrigan’s ’89 grand-final game changer. Gavin Badger’s mysteriously attractive wife.
The one doing the rounds currently is of Brett ‘the Psychologist’ Suttor and his wingman Jason ‘Maverick’ Robinson post-try chatter last weekend.
Coaches and punters have called for an inquiry. There have even been suggestions that we should have officials limit their vocabulary to a shortlist of common phrases (“Held! Roll away! Waerea-Hargraves! I don’t want to hear it Paul!”).
Such a motion defecates in the very boot of rugby league, and an alternative to such draconian censorship may be to go the whole 10 metres and embrace what our refs have to say.
After all, when an open-shirted, handlebar-moustached TV reporter visits a war zone everyone wants to hear from them. But when our own voices on the ground are dodging bombs and riding tanks the administration expect our heroes to be seen and not heard.
Actually, we’d prefer they were neither seen nor heard. But hang on, isn’t that the video ref? Nobody likes them either! But I digress…
Getting the refs to open up a bit could greatly enhance the viewer experience, and give some value to those expensive ‘Sports Ears’ you threw down the back of your cupboard along with your Michael Bolt cookbook after two uses.
For starters a bit more interaction with the players would be nice. Again that young Suttor chap is leading the way here, striking up some interesting banter at scrums.
Perhaps expanding on this by getting refs to engage the players in some in-depth conversation, Ray Martin style. The likes of Greg Bird or Blake Ferguson can wax lyrically about politics, the arts or just what they think of Australia during stoppages in play.
If its the youth market the ARLC want to attract, then perhaps we could get the men in the middle to engage in a ‘dissing’ battle. The two refs could sledge one another, with various digs about each other’s high-knee action or whistle size before combining to turn their attention to the hapless touchies.
It would be totally radical. Dude.
From a commercial standpoint, perhaps the referees could become the new spokesmen in the spotlight. They could spruik memorabilia, plug upcoming network programs and provide live betting updates once the new gambling restrictions come into place to Joe six pack at home.
Those at the ground wouldn’t need to miss out either, because your club’s irritating fluro-haired ground-announcer-type ponce would be given the boot in favour of a live REF STREAM™ over the PA system.
But let’s face it. As much as we’d all like to see such innovation seep into our game, it’s likely the ARLC will take the safe option. They will inevitably continue to force the pride of the league communicate in a series of shrill whistles and bizarre arm gestures like primitive man.
As the sport’s silent majority we deserve better. We deserve to know what’s going on in our officials’ heads. Our brave, brave refs deserve a voice.
If you’re with me, I’d like you to make as much noise as possible every time a referee is forced to blow their whistle this weekend as a sign of support.
I’m confident results will be clear for all to see, and that our message will be heard loud and clear.
Now, start that banter ref!
Follow Chris on Twitter: @Vic_Arious
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious
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