It’s time for the NRL to think outside the box
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)
Having watched North Queensland get bundled out of the NRL finals race at the hands of Manly, again – and at the SFS, again – I have been philosophical about why I think the Cowboys lost with arguably their best ever line-up.
Despite sorely missing the direction of Aaron Payne and the impact of Tariq Sims, in the context of their otherwise excellent 2012 campaign it was an uncharacteristically untidy performance from the Cowboys.
Although, if you look at their longer history, perhaps it wasn’t so uncharacteristic.
The real talking point was the video referee decision that saw Manly’s Michael Oldfield awarded a try after a possible knock-on by five-eighth Keiran Foran.
I’ve often wondered how it is that a NRL-qualified referee can get simple decisions wrong in an environment which is effectively the equivalent of the armchair fan.
He sits high up above the crowd in a private box, presumably with a nice comfortable chair, TV screen covering the action, and some communications equipment which enables chatter between himself and the on-field officials. Perhaps he’ll also have a nice hot cup of tea or coffee to go with it.
While speculating about the creature comforts in this closed off ‘zone’ the presumably well-paid and usually senior video referees enjoy eight games a weekend, the answer to the problem hit me like a ton of bricks.
Why is it that the guy in the thick of the action, who is these days forced to suffer the humiliation of wearing pink to work, must rely on his well-pampered former colleague to override his decision making authority?
Think about it. Shayne Hayne is in the thick of the action, running with the players, fielding queries from the captains, stopping the players from killing each other, keeping an eye on the penalty count, trying to keep a steady 10m, watching for one of the countless grappling moves in the ruck, listening to his touch judges for forward pass calls or other infringements, keeping an eye on the ball for any possible knock-ons or strips while keeping an eye off the ball for players tackled late – the list is pretty long.
So when there’s a possible try scored and Hayne wants to query it, he has to completely give over his command of the game to that guy high up in the stands who now has to put his coffee down and actually do some work.
And after that decision is made, the video referee presses a button and goes back to relaxing. Then Shayne Hayne has to address an angry and often justified tirade about why the try was or wasn’t awarded.
The ridiculous thing about this situation is that Hayne might not even actually agree with the decision that was just made!
If the player has so much to say about what just happened, he obviously has a pretty good view of the replays on the big screen from the field. I’ve seen those screens and these days, they are not only huge, but display a very sharp picture. It’s easy to see what’s happening on the ground.
So my solution to the video refereeing problem is simple – don’t get rid of video replays, just get rid of the video referees’ box.
When a possible try is scored, Shayne Hayne shouldn’t have to defer his decision to a bloke who was sick of all the running and fitness involved in being an on-field referee and retired to video adjudication in order to collate a retirement fund for himself.
Hayne should be able to simply request a replay of the incident, and then with his other referee by his side, watch the replays on the ground, request a specific angle from the production crew where needed, and make his decision right there on the ground.
He can cross reference what he sees on the screen with what he remembers seeing of the actual incident through his own eyes, something that video referees cannot possibly do.
He can then explain his decision to the captain based on his terms. What could be simpler?
It cuts out this needless middle man who is obviously in no position to make consistently good decisions from their position of command high up in the stands.
I would like to see the NRL trial this in a few pre-season games, or even towards the end of the 2013 season in inconsequential games that don’t affect the makeup of the finals series.
Something definitely needs to be done. Instead of just throwing resources at the problem, maybe now rugby league needs to think outside the box.
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