Bill and Stu’s excellent adventure
Bill Harrigan launches his book 'Harrigan'. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
It started out like Romeo and Juliet, and ended in tragedy. Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper, rugby league’s dynamic duo, are no more.
Cast aside like soiled and sweaty strapping tape post-match, the NRL has continued to shed excess baggage as it climbs towards sport’s promised land by terminating Harrigan and Raper’s role as referees’ coaches.
While this news will no doubt please many Harrigan haters and Sharks fans, the decision does appear to leave the game in a spot of bother.
Not that they won’t be able to replace Hollywood and his sidekick. Video ref recluse Russell Smith has already slotted into an interim role and, seeing as the bloke who put him there is an interim himself, you would think old speedy Smith may be there for a while too.
It’s just that if the bloke everyone considers the best ref of all time (and a former special operations police officer to boot) plus one isn’t good enough for the refs’ top job then, umm, who is?
While they have been accused over the last two years of ‘wrecking the joint’ after every dud decision, the truth is both Hollywood and his sidekick can be considered to care for the game deeply.
Their only real crime, in fact, might have actually been caring too much.
Take the Greg Inglis try in State of Origin one debacle. Whether you thought it was a try, didn’t think it was a try, drive a Volvo or think Paul Keating could have been a better PM, it doesn’t really matter. The video ref on the night, Sean Hampstead, green lighted it.
Now the public had the right to seek clarification, especially after Trent Barrett’s car park accusations after the match.
Instead of just forwarding through a media release to clear things up, Bill went the extra step of holding a press conference. All well and good. That is until the damn thing became as confusing as NASA’s Mars landing.
Watching Harrigan deconstruct the incident like JFKs assassination had the opposite affect to what it set out to achieve, and all who watched it were thinking along the lines of, “Bill. What are you doing, Bill? Stop.”
Listening to a game that takes the average viewer about a minute and a half to understand be broken down into a menagerie of obscure interpretations just rubbed salt into the wounds and alienated fans.
It’s also pretty obvious that Harrigan’s coaching style had rubbed some of his charges the wrong way. Again this was most likely a case of him wanting to get the absolute best out of the refs for the reputation of the game, but he seemingly became the pushy tennis parent making life a misery.
Even after his sacking last week Harrigan has been in the press, championing rule changes to make the game clearer for officials and fans. Granted these may include his hilariously awful mooted ‘forward pass on the fifth’ from a few years back but, at a time when many would be bemoaning their sorry lot, Harrigan’s feelings for rugby league still shine through.
Despite his obvious attachment though, perhaps it is the right time for Bill to take a step back from the daily running of the NRL’s referees.
Because although he loves rugby league and has a role somewhere to play with the game’s whistleblowers, sometimes when you hold onto something too tight, you can begin to squash it out of shape.
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 since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious
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