Is it just halftime in the game of hammer the refs?

Greg Prichard Columnist

By , Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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    The rise of support for referees since the verbal hammering they copped from losing coaches on the weekend has been encouraging, but how long will it last?

    Is a twist like that just a fresh angle created to help keep the story going, or is it a genuinely sympathetic notion?

    I guess we’ll find out the next time there are enough contentious decisions in a game to spark debate – or outrage, depending on how you look at it – which may well be in this weekend’s semi-finals.

    Referee-bashing bores me, but it seems to be the favourite sport among enough people from various groups including coaches, media, commentators and fans – all of whom keep it going.

    I’m glad the NRL hit the Cronulla and Manly clubs with a combined total of $50,000 in fines following comments made by their respective coaches – Shane Flanagan and Trent Barrett – after their teams lost last weekend.

    They should have hit them for $50,000 each and provided an even bigger disincentive to other coaches who might want to react similarly in the future.

    Obviously, there are faults with both the refereeing and the Bunker system, and there needs to be a huge amount of time devoted to those subjects when the NRL conducts its end-of-season review.

    It would be a good start if they resolved that next season they will go back to refereeing according to the rules rather than trying to ‘manage’ games.

    So many basic things go virtually unpatrolled these days that the game often becomes a mess when that can so easily be avoided.

    It would be great if we went even further back in time to when the referees were strict in their dealings with players and didn’t address them by their names and seem to want to be matey with them.

    Familiarity really does breed contempt in this instance.

    Referee Gerard Sutton explains why a try was disallowed to Storm captain Cameron Smith

    Cam Smith (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

    The players are the players and the refs are the bosses and a clear line is drawn. What was so wrong with that scenario that it had to change?

    But while refs and video refs do make genuine errors, critics have got to stop conveniently labelling their decisions on virtual 50-50 calls as mistakes.

    Coaches and players make plenty of mistakes too, as so many people have thankfully pointed out since last weekend.

    Players don’t have to wait until the games to make them either – just look at the Rugby League Players’ Association awards announced last night.

    Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco, and not Melbourne’s Cameron Smith, was named player of the year.

    Now, I’m a huge ‘Teddy’ fan, but was he even the fullback of the year, let alone best player overall? Do I hear Melbourne’s Billy Slater? Manly’s Tom Trbojevic? Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from the Warriors?

    The RLPA team of the year read like this: James Tedesco (Tigers), Jordan Rapana (Raiders), Konrad Hurrell (Titans), Dane Gagai (Knights), David Nofoaluma (Tigers), Gareth Widdop (Dragons), Nathan Cleary (Panthers), Aaron Woods (Tigers), Cameron Smith (Storm), David Klemmer (Bulldogs), Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys), Wade Graham (Sharks), Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs).

    Three Tigers players to one Storm player? The Tigers must be set to win the premiership. Oh, sorry, I forgot, they ran 14th.

    Konrad Hurrell? David Nofoaluma? Good players, but in the team of the year based on form this season? Let’s get real.

    Anyway, the fact is we all make mistakes.

    What chance a drama-free two games of football this weekend? It’s unlikely, but let’s at least hope less people confuse difficult decisions with mistakes.

    Penrith have got a puncher’s chance against the Broncos in Brisbane, but I can’t tip them. They don’t play for 80 minutes, so the home side will get enough opportunities to put on the necessary points and win.

    North Queensland have had their win against the odds. Cronulla should have beaten them four times, but the Sharks can’t score points and their discipline was bad.

    The Cowboys played in Sydney on Sunday and after going back home to Townsville they have to come back to Sydney for a Saturday game.

    The only way Parramatta could put themselves at serious risk of losing would be if they went in with the wrong attitude, thinking they only had to turn up to win, like they did when they lost to Newcastle in Round 23.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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