Could former players replace NRL video referees?
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Where do we go from here? Honestly, what direction should the NRL move in to try and rid the game of the type of refereeing howler that we witnessed on Friday night at Allianz Stadium?
For all of the debate surrounding obstructions and shoulder charges, who would’ve thought that a simple knock-on would plunge the officials knee-deep into their latest crisis?
Crisis is a strong word, perhaps an over-reaction, but it didn’t take long for the #NRLincrisis hashtag to start doing the rounds on twitter.
Social media shouldn’t be used as the only measure of public opinion, but it is quite a powerful tool in that regard.
My timeline in the minutes after Kieran Foran’s missed knock-on against the Cowboys that led to a Manly try wouldn’t have made pretty reading for those on the Australian Rugby League Commission.
It’s clear fans, players and coaches are fed up with what the whistleblowers have served up in 2012.
The interpretation of a rule book that has become too complicated is translating into bizarre outcomes on the field.
Justifying the new obstruction rule was hard enough to swallow, but allowing a clear knock-on to be ruled legal under the proviso of benefit of the doubt is going too far.
You can attach benefit of the doubt to anything and make it legal.
The on-field referees have a terribly difficult and unenviable job.
They’re expected to rule correctly on decisions in the heat of the moment and are labelled heroes or villains by fans and commentators who have had the benefit of looking at countless replays before making their own judgement.
What can’t be excused so easily is the performance of the men in the box.
They have more than enough technology and time available to them.
Players no longer have any confidence in the process.
Why has it become like spinning a roulette wheel?
The debate around the ‘feel, or lack thereof, a referee has for the game is often dismissed because it sounds like something pontificated by a rusted on diehard.
But after the latest blunder it’s hard to argue against.
Not many people, if any, who had the benefit of viewing the same replays as the video referees would’ve come to the conclusion that Foran didn’t knock the ball on.
That is a major problem.
The call for former players to be trained up as video referees definitely has merit.
It wouldn’t even have to be a full-time role. Preferably they’d be allowed to keep their distance until game day.
The need to retain their ‘feel’ for the game is important. That could be lost if they were trawling through hours of footage and rule books every week.
They’d need to know the rules, but maintain the ability to apply them with a healthy dose of common sense.
If the ARLC was petrified of this backfiring then they could even have a trained referee sitting in the box as a point of reference or sounding board, but the former player would ultimately be in charge of making the decision.
It’s something that could be implemented in time for next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a large number of ex-players willing to step into the role.
For now the rugby league community just has to sit, hold its breathe and hope that the premiership is decided by the brilliance of the competitors and not a controversial decision.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.
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