What Michael Maguire has to do as the new referees coach

Steve Mascord Columnist

By Steve Mascord, Steve Mascord is a Roar Expert

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    What should Michael Maguire and Donald Trump both have in common? They should each have limited terms.

    In case you haven’t caught up with the news from Monday evening (thanks to a late night Facebook post from Greg McCallum I was able to break it on my humble little website), the former South Sydney coach has been named Tony Archer’s replacement as coach of NRL referees.

    Archer moves sideways into a newly created national head of officiating role.

    In the past, the NRL has flip-flopped between a former referee running its officials and an ex-coach. Neither philosophy has clearly been successful enough to stick with. Former refs who’ve had a go include Michael Stone, Bill Harrigan and Archer himself. Ex-coaches have included Peter Louis, Robert Finch and Daniel Anderson.

    Are we stuck in a rut? Are we condemned to always attract the same amount of criticism, regardless of what we try, how many technological aids we enlist and how capable the men in charge may be?

    To my way of thinking, there’s a mistake in terms of over-arching philosophy.

    We wouldn’t put the same referee in charge of the same team each week until they ‘got it right’, would we?

    So why do we bring in a referees coach, encourage him to stamp his ‘style’ on the competition and subject 16 teams to that style until he is ousted?

    I don’t want a referees coach to have ‘style’. I want him to coach his underlings to enforce the rules as best he can and stay on top of the sneaky trends of modern NRL coaching. He is not like a club coach – nothing like it. He does not win or lose each week.

    Michael Maguire smiles. What's he up to?

    (Photo: AAP)

    He’s like the commissioner of police.

    Do we really want the way the law is enforced on the street to be subject to who is sitting at a given desk on a given day? I would say we actually want the opposite.

    We want consistency, divorced from personality.

    Because of this, I reckon that when the NRL referees coach comes into the role, he should know he is only there for a year or two. It’s not about performance, it’s about efficiency. He’s a public servant.

    Once we take the ego out of the role – and I’m not accusing Madge of having an ego here, just speaking generally – there’ll be one less thing to argue about. We’ll not be pinning mistakes on the leadership as much because the leadership will be an anonymous revolving door.

    We’ll pin mistakes on the individuals who make them because that’s actually who is responsible for most mistakes, everywhere.

    Far too many positions in rugby league are held by people whose focus is keeping their job instead of doing what’s right for the sport, no matter how unpopular.

    I’ve always said more people in the game need to behave like they don’t care if they have a job tomorrow.

    For the referees coach, he should know with absolute certainty he doesn’t.

    Steve Mascord
    Steve Mascord

    Steve Mascord has covered rugby league in 15 countries and worked for most media organisations that regularly feature the sport, on both sides of the globe. He started off as an 18-year-old cadet at Australian Associated Press, transferring to the Sydney Morning Herald just in time to go on the last full Kangaroos Tour in 1994. He spent three years at Sydney's Daily Telegraph from 2006 before going freelance at the conclusion of the 2008 World Cup. Steve is the author of the book Touchstones, host of the White Line Fever podcast, partner in international rugby league merchandise start-up Mascord Brownz, and proprietor of rugbyleaguehub.com, hardrockhub.com and hotmetalonline.com. He is married to Sarah and splits his time between London and Sydney.

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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • December 13th 2017 @ 7:02am
      VanMac said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      Well, that was dumb of you.

      You mixed American politics with the NRL…just to virtue signal.

      Why is it dumb of you, you may ask, stunned.

      Because I am new member to The Roar & I wont be reading anything written by you again.

      Writer, now you need to hope your “bosses” dont read my comment.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 7:18am
        Steve Mascord said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

        Mate I do this as a hobby. I couldn’t care less!

        • December 13th 2017 @ 11:41am
          Mitcher said | December 13th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          I love Steve Mascord’s comment replies more than strawberry pie.

          Seriously, so good!

        • December 14th 2017 @ 1:32pm
          Hanrahan said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          I read Steve Mascord’s stuff in spite of his political leanings, just as I read, and thoroughly enjoyed his book, despite his appalling taste in music.

      • Roar Guru

        December 13th 2017 @ 7:46am
        eagleJack said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Thanks for giving me the heads up VanMac. I’ll be sure to ignore and avoid your comments moving forward. Virtue signalling -oh man.

      • Roar Guru

        December 13th 2017 @ 7:59am
        The Barry said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        You certainly are a member.

      • Editor

        December 13th 2017 @ 9:25am
        Daniel Jeffrey said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        I can assure you, VanMac, that Steve has not the slightest need to hope no-one at Roar HQ sees this comment.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 9:33am
          Oingo Boingo said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          You are very correct Dan , the Roar is very much a bunch of bedwetting , screaming lefties and Steve will be rewarded with a free vegetarian pie for his Anti Trump sentiment ..
          I will still read his articles though .

          • December 13th 2017 @ 12:03pm
            not so super said | December 13th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

            i would say anti trump doesnt mean lefty. anti trump means being a rational human being

            • December 13th 2017 @ 1:50pm
              Alan said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

              Oingo doesn’t belong to that group unfortunately.

              • December 13th 2017 @ 5:24pm
                Oingo Boingo said | December 13th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

                Good day to you both, Punch , and of course , Judy .

      • December 13th 2017 @ 12:04pm
        not so super said | December 13th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Welcome and good bye Van – dont let the door hit you on the way out

      • December 13th 2017 @ 4:24pm
        Concerned Observer said | December 13th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

        Usually I’d prepare some sort of pithy comment about how bizzare and ridiculous that statement was but it’s hard to write something that tops your actual statement, hats off to you my friend,

        life must be hard when you just can’t escape all those evil SJWs and all their talk of “Trump” or “Equality” or “The rise of facism in western conservative political groups” even on the internet, where you’re anonymous and under no requirement to state your views

      • Roar Guru

        December 13th 2017 @ 4:30pm
        MyGeneration said | December 13th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

        I really hope someone has put a copy of Touchstones in your Christmas stocking, VanMac.

    • Roar Guru

      December 13th 2017 @ 7:29am
      Con Scortis said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      Hi Steve, I agree with the premise of your article.

      Ideally, there should be no discernible change from one head of refs to another head of refs, apart from improvements in efficiency (that is, fewer and fewer errors over time).

      One of the things that annoys fans is when the NRL makes constant rules changes. Another is when referees interpret existing rules differently from season to season. Another is when different referees interpret the same rule differently in the same season.

      If the head of referees can improve all of the above, we’ll all he happy.

      BTW Steve, I just wanted to say that even though you copped a bit of flack in your last article (and from the overly sensitive soul above), I still like you mate and you continue to be my third-favourite Roar Expert. (I shouldn’t reveal that my second-favourite Roar Expert is female, because VanMac would probably accuse me of “virtue-signalling”…lol)

    • Roar Guru

      December 13th 2017 @ 7:58am
      The Barry said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      I think we’re overdue for the refs to tighten up the interpretation of rules instead of trying to force the game to flow. The rule book and the way the game is refereed are unaligned far too often.

      But overall I think the problem lies with us. We’re in an era of finger pointing and refs faulting. If a 50/50 strip or knock on call goes against our team the refs have committed a “howler” and cost us two points and there’s a conspiracy to keep certain teams up and other teams down.

      The refs can never get it right because fans view decisions through the lens of their club support.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 9:10am
        Jimmmy said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        I disagree with you a little on this one TB. The crux of the matter is consistency by Refs. As long as they interpret a rule consistently (and by that I mean each Ref and Refs as a whole) I believe fans will get onboard . The situation where the Refs have been interpreting one way all year and then suddenly throw that in the bin is when they lose me.

        The rule book is just one part of a complex that determines what the rule is ( the rules committee or ‘parliament’), how it is interpreted ( the NRL, tribunal etc , the Courts), and how it is enforced ( or not), ( the Refs or the police). There are hundreds of laws on the statute books that are never enforced. Parliament know that , the judiciary know that , the police know that.

        Let’s take the voluntary tackle rule. No one has been done for that for a hundred years. Do you want that brought back..?. (God forbid). It’s a rule but is consistently let slide . If a Ref were to pull one up , now that would be a travesty.

        The aligbpnment of the rule book and interpretations of it is largely immaterial as long as the interpretation is applied consistently .

        • Roar Guru

          December 13th 2017 @ 12:32pm
          Nat said | December 13th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          Have to say I’m with TB on this Jimmmy. Sure have interpretations like a shepherd, was the player truly impeded or take a dive? The contradictions of the voluntary tackle do annoy me. If the player dives to the ground untouched he is not penalised. Pick that same bloke up and back into goal or sideline – penalty. Play the ball straight and at least attempt to touch it. Again the contradiction, if the ball player rolls between his legs but the dummy isn’t there yet, the marker still cannot make a play at the ball because it hasn’t cleared the ruck. Agree they are minor but it has to go both ways but therein lies the greatest issue, loosen this then loosen that in return or play by the pretty simple rules.

          • December 13th 2017 @ 1:46pm
            Jimmmy said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

            Hey Nat, yeah sometimes the contradictions are mind blowing. One day I would like to see the defensive team just avoid contact with a fullback who dives back into the field of play. Just stand a foot or two away. He can’t be called tackled, so to play on he woukd need to get up and risk being shunted back in goal. If he just stayed down , how long before a Ref would give a penalty? All interesting stuff.

            Might see if I can get to a Diehards game next year. It would be great to see the blue and white again mate.

            • Roar Guru

              December 13th 2017 @ 3:28pm
              Nat said | December 13th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

              Always welcome down at Emerson Park Jimmmy. And next year when the Easts or Redcliffe boys poke fun at the modest clubhouse we can point at the Premiership Trophy inside!

        • Roar Guru

          December 13th 2017 @ 1:13pm
          The Barry said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          Hey Jimmmy

          I think it’s the interpretation that causes the inconsistencies.

          For example, most times there’s a kick off or dropout, there’s players in front of the kicker. But the refs let it go, let it go in the name of letting the game flow until there’s a ‘really bad’ one.

          But fans can rightfully throw their hands in the air and say “why now?”

          If they just refereed the law that in front of the kicker is in front of the kicker there would be no problem.

          That’s an easy example but it applies to playing the ball straight, walking off the mark, markers being square, the 10 metre rule, no penalties in golden point, attempting to play the ball with the foot, forward passes from dummy half, etc, etc

      • December 13th 2017 @ 9:12am
        Oingo Boingo said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

        Just ref to the rules , that’s all most people want .
        90 degree play of the balls , kicking from in front of the halfway or goal line on restarts or goal line drop outs , not using your foot to play the ball ….. These are not rules that are being misinterpreted, they are being blatantly ignored….they’re black and white , no grey .
        I hope he takes your advice Steve , and does what’s is right for the good of the game , and not his own survival.
        And if ya gunna slag out a political figure , Turdball , Shorten or Diknatale would be a better choice IMO.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 9:16am
          Jimmmy said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          Oingo, Oingo, Oingo , I refuse to play Monopoly with you.

          • December 13th 2017 @ 10:11am
            Oingo Boingo said | December 13th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

            Your not one of these “up end the board , when your losing types ” are you Jimmy ?

            • December 13th 2017 @ 10:44am
              Jimmmy said | December 13th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

              No Oingo but we do have rule interpretations that we have developed over many years and just like voluntary tackles there are a couple of rules we just ignore.

      • Roar Pro

        December 13th 2017 @ 9:12am
        Ghost Crayfish said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

        Agree with this. And the culture in the commentary box feeds this attitude in fans. Why do they have to subject us to in-depth analysis of every single call, just to find out if it was wrong? Half the time the commentators disagree, but they’re still outraged! Just get on with the game everyone.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 9:31am
          Fraser said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          Outrage generates advertising dollars in newspapers, websites, radio and TV. The outrage experts throughout the media such as Gus Gould, MG, Matty Johns, Paul Kent, Danny Weidler, etc. have turned it into a weekly cycle where one bad call can be discussed, dissected and reviewed over and over, with each talking head getting their 2 cents in, often through multiple formats. It’s all just noise generated to steal our attention.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 13th 2017 @ 6:00pm
            Don said | December 13th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

            Outrage, criticism and hyperbole is also the easy road to take.
            Insight, understanding tactics and explaining it concisely for viewers is far harder to communicate.

            So when we fill commentary boxes with guys who have no real training in communication we get what we have…largely a bunch of quality footy players who struggle to convert their innate awareness of what is happening into something that makes sense beyond the odd long winded ramblings…

            Hence why the best commentator has an expert to provide insight and educated opinion and, to use an old trade term “a colour man” to provide the light hearted comment from time to time.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 9:24am
        scrum said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        TB-hit the nail on the head. Can see constant replays with everybody having a different opinion. The Ref has to make a decision & is then described as a “howler”by those who the decision goes against. The “bias” that the Referee is accused of in fact belongs to the supporters. And I am somewhat amused by the “experts” calling for strict adherence to the Rule book. The first Ref to do this would then be criticised by the same people as ruining the game, being a show pony etc etc. Simple fact is that the Refs can never win. And for those who think the job is easy-get out in the middle & you might get a surprise. And I really feel for the NRL Refs- under enormous pressure, treated in a manner that would be totally unacceptable in any other workplace.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 8:57pm
          E-Meter said | December 13th 2017 @ 8:57pm | ! Report

          Most sports look after their officials in terms of decision making. How many times did we see Archer (and his predecessors) say ‘Cecchin got that wrong’ or ‘Shane Hayne should have penalised him’. They’re humans officiating a fast paced aggressive sport. Nothing will change under Maguire unfortunately. But what an opportunity to fix up the predominant ‘facilitating’ that current refereeing has become.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 11:43am
        Mitcher said | December 13th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        Can’t agree with you more Barry.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:12am
      Worlds Biggest said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Very surprised Madge has taken this role, as a Bunnies fan, I wish him all the best for what is a very challenging gig.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:14am
      Glenn said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Consistency is what we need most. How many times does it seem that a ref treats one team more harshly than another. We need to put an end to that.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:15am
      Jimmmy said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Steve Mascord, I can’t work out your logic in this article. Hypothetical: Madge comes in, turns the Refs into reliable and consistent officials who generate little controversy . Then he should be sacked.? Give him a chance and if he is any good keep him forever.

      • December 18th 2017 @ 5:20pm
        Steve Mascord said | December 18th 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

        Yes. Should be a set term so refereeing has no personality. Two years max.

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