The moment Bryan Norrie’s pinky finger came into contact with Martin Taupau’s left nipple during Cooper Cronk’s try for Melbourne on Thursday night, a distinctly uncomfortable feeling began building in the pit of my stomach.
No it wasn’t the beef doner kebab with garlic sauce I was scoffing down at the time, it was the prospect of yet another ludicrous video referring decision that would take the gloss off a game I otherwise was heartily enjoying.
It was my firm hope the new refereeing regime in 2013 would solve many of the problems and inconstancies that have plagued the NRL officialdom in previous seasons.
Admittedly there have been some positive changes, the speed of the ruck is certainly one of those, however the interpretation of the obstruction rule continues to cause headaches for players, coaches and fans alike.
In the case of Bryan Norrie during the Storm-Bulldogs clash, it is probably the worst ruling I’ve witnessed regarding the obstruction rule in living memory.
What really grinds fans’ gears when it comes to ruling on obstructions is that there appears to be no latitude for good old fashioned common sense. Surely a bit of discretion can be used to determine if (a) the level of contact made between a defender and a decoy is significant and (b) if it would have had any effect on the play.
In the case of Cooper Cronk’s try on Thursday night, Martin Taupau would have had a better chance of toppling Julia Gillard in a leadership spill than stopping the try being scored. Further to this, the level of contact made was similar to a plush toy brushing past a strip of felt.
Even with all this in mind, the try was denied because of a black and white interpretation that precludes ANY contact being made between a defender and a decoy, regardless of the context.
If I were a coach in today’s game, I would have no choice but to order my players who are running off the ball to learn how to perform an expert barrel roll in order to prevent contact, either that or speak to David Copperfield about the art-form of invisibility. It’s just plain ridiculous!
The wider implications of this kind of decision will unfortunately mean we have less attacking creativity in the game because players will be too scared to run off the ball for fear of any type of contact with a defender.
If the NRL does not address this kind of issue, the game will continue down the road of being even more structured and predictable, and prevent the Benji Marshalls and Johnathan Thurstons of the game from weaving their magic.
It should also be noted that if a defender chooses to tackle a player off the ball, this is not an obstruction. That defender has made the bad decision and the decoy has been successful.
Lamentably I see this time and again construed as a penalty and I am one rugby league fan who has had enough.
Let’s give the referees the ability to use more discretion and let the game flow at its creative best.