The 2013 NRL season may be completely non-existent but already the betting agencies have already shut up shop for the game’s ‘Most Improved’.
And no, it’s not Tim Moltzen, Chris Sandow or Greg Bird’s facial hair – it’s the refs!
Blimey, did anyone else see a trial match on the weekend? Who were those blokes in the striking pink-and-black ensembles making decisions in the in-goals from Dunedin to Dunny-doo?
Surely these couldn’t be the same blokes from 2012 who struggled harder to make a decision than Laurie Daley making his footy tips on Fox Sports.
But, after a quick check of the names save for a few dropouts and a couple of new ex-player video refs hogging the party pies yes, it was the usual suspects.
So what’s happened in the off-season? New refs boss Daniel Anderson been coaching the house down? A steep pay increase? Some sort of anabolic goat peptide protein shake injection?
Nope, seems they’ve been given something even better and totally ACC approved.
By asking the refs to make a decision on a try when referring to the man upstairs, as well as scrapping ‘Benefit of the Doubt’ to the attacking side, the NRL has helped the whistleblowers regain their mojo and the game looked a hell of a lot better for it on the weekend.
This may all sound so simple but think about it like this: a referees job is to make decisions.
By taking that away from them by going to a video ref straight away on contentious calls, you are eroding the basic building blocks of their profession.
Over the last few years far too often refs have behaved a bit like you and me when we pull out of our driveway, get around the corner and wonder if we left the garage door open and if our kitchen is now being ransacked by the twelve cats that live across the road.
Even refereeing at a laughably lowly level, having felt the thrill of striding onto a ground whistle in hand and insults zinging around my ears made me realise being a referee depends on confidence like Pamela Anderson’s acting career depended on fourteen-year-old boys.
Plus, there’s the added bonus with the new system in that the fans can have an objective measurement of how good a ref is by how often their decision upon referral turns out to be correct.
Who know, maybe they’ll put a tally in Big League for punters to keep track with in the stands.
Now there’s a good chance that once again perhaps we’re all going off early here, after all everyone raved about the two ref system for three minutes before resuming usual service.
And the ref reforms are yet to face a Phil Gould Channel Nine twenty-minute tirade.
However, for such a simple rule change the referee decision upon referral to the video ref made the games genuinely more enjoyable on the weekend, and it will hopefully also have a flow-on effect of reduced times for video ref decisions.
I for one see things heading in the right direction, and am willing to give the new laws and regime ‘the benefit of the doubt’on this one.
Now, if only we could have come up with a better rule for the shoulder charge.
Follow Chris on Twiter @Vic_Arious