NRL needs fresh view on obstruction after same old problems
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)
Referees co-coach Bill Harrigan spent last week putting together a special DVD clearing up the obstruction rule so NRL coaches, players and fans could all head into the NRL finals knowing exactly what is and isn’t acceptable.
The only problem is, despite his best efforts, the message hasn’t got through to the key people in the game.
The obstruction farce reared its head again on Friday night at Brookvale Oval as Manly beat Brisbane 16-6, and by Sunday the interpretation of the ruling also left many scratching their heads.
Harrigan felt the clarification was necessary because of a try awarded to Bulldog Jono Wright against the Tigers just over a week ago that he called “unacceptable.”
The former first grade whistleblower went on to say that players couldn’t gain, “an advantage by a run, pass or kick.”
At least twice this weekend the men in charge of the matches, both on the field and in the box, seemingly failed to uphold those criteria.
On Friday night, Brisbane lock Corey Parker got the ball from halfback Peter Wallace, ducked behind a decoy runner and passed the ball to centre Jack Reed.
Reed made use of the space created and ran down the sideline before putting in a grubber kick and forcing a drop-out.
Clearly, Brisbane benefited via a pass, but instead of getting a penalty back on their own 30m line, Manly were forced to take a drop-out and defend their line.
Manly’s players seemed to know that they were entitled to a penalty because Anthony Watmough, Daly Cherry-Evans, Glenn Stewart and Jamie Lyon all stopped and looked at the officials at once.
Those four players, myself, the commentary team and fans could all be wrong, but given the guidelines we’re all working to, it seems like that should’ve been a penalty to Manly.
Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon pleaded for an explanation from referee Tony Archer immediately after the incident.
He can be heard saying, “what’s the rule” at least three times before a frustrated looking Archer walks away.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey even had a thinly veiled swipe during the post-match news conference saying that it was, “good to see they’ve cleared up the obstruction rule as well.”
“That was good … anyway,” he continued before shaking his head.
Things weren’t any clearer by yesterday afternoon at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce scored a try after stepping behind fullback Anthony Minichiello, who had just crashed into Tigers winger Matt Utai and stand-in hooker Liam Fulton.
Utai did have a genuine chance of stopping Pearce scoring the try, but was denied the opportunity to do so because of the run made by Minichiello.
Pearce had benefited from a run. So, penalty right? Wrong. Video referee, decision pending, try, four points and cue more head-scratching.
Tigers coach Tim Sheens was surprised the try was awarded.
“Yeah, but there were three of them up stairs so obviously majority ruled,” he said.
Now, if the men in the box feel Minichiello’s run had no effect in the scoring of the try then they’re entitled to award a try, but it would be pretty hard to argue that was the case.
Both of these incidents had no effect on the eventual outcome, but it’s concerning that after a week where the officials were grilled about what is and isn’t acceptable, we have these two situations occur.
The finals are almost upon us and it would be absolutely ridiculous to have a match decided by a rule that is far too open to interpretation.
It used to be ingrained in footballers that if you ran behind your player you stopped. If you didn’t, you ran the risk of being penalised for a shepherd.
Why has this rule been made so hard to understand?
It hasn’t benefited the game at all, so why is it still here?
Surely, common sense should prevail and the ‘old fashion’ interpretation of the shepherd re-instated before we’re talking about this on the Monday after the grand final.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.
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