NRL touch judges are the elephants in the room

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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15 Have your say

    Every rugby league administrator at Kangaroo, Origin, and club level is fair game – open to the media and its criticism.

    Administrators are replaced if they’ve done the wrong thing, coaches and players are dropped for lack of form, but the referees seem to sail through without many ramifications for whatever errors they make.

    To criticise refs is runs the risk of a $10,000 fine or more for “bringing the game into disrepute”, but we rarely see out of form referees dropped for making the wrong calls.

    But there’s an elephant in the room – the touch judges.

    With four sets of eyes pinned on the play, how do so many apparent forward passes go begging, and how many offsides from downtown kicks go un-noticed, let alone the numerous times the attacking team takes off in front of the kicker to restart play?

    Often is the right word, despite the referee yelling “stay onside” before the kick.

    This should be the domain of the “touchies”. They should be extra vigilant in policing forward passes, calling offsides downtown, and watching for players being taken out not in possession.

    Invariably all three infringements happen before the build-up to a try, where decisions must be made to decide the outcome.

    NRL boss Todd Greenberg yesterday admitted referees make mistakes, and that nobody is perfect. What he didn’t say was how those mistakes will be treated by the NRL appointments board for next week.

    He also told Manly coach Trent Barrett and his Sharks counterpart Shane Flanagan to not blame referees for their teams’ early exits from the finals race.

    Manly Sea Eagles NRL coach Trent Barrett

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Barrett would’ve had more substance if he had he also mentioned the underdog Panthers enjoyed 51 per cent possession, scored three tries to two, ran 1644 metres to Manly’s 1536, and had 12 offloads to eight.

    The Panthers also managed 706 kick metres to 592, and missed 41 tackles to Manly’s 36. Yet the Panthers won 22-10.

    Likewise, Flanagan would’ve had more weight to his argument if he’d saluted the underdog Cowboys for coming back from 8-0 and 14-6 with 57 per cent possession, running 1934 metres to the Sharks’ 1721, with Cowboy wrecking ball Jason Taumalomo busting 256 metres to score a solo try.

    Had Flanagan also mentioned the Sharks missed 34 tackles to just 15, when defence has always been a Sharks’ strength, more fans would have taken notice.

    And Flanagan should’ve chipped his captain Paul Gallen for making the hero decision to go for the try when right in front of the black dot was one of the very best drop goal exponents in James Maloney to win the game 15-14.

    Instead, the Cowboys won 15-14 in extra time.

    But I’ll leave the last word to Todd Greenberg when he tells us why there was a drop of 30 per cent in crowd numbers for the first four games of the 2017 NRL finals series.

    He should concede that it’s at least partially due to many fans not having confidence in the decision-making abilities of some of the touchies and referees.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • September 12th 2017 @ 10:47am
      Abhi Beckert said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Play the balls are another problem area. Whenever the defence is on the back foot, some teams stop playing the ball properly. Either the rules need to change, or the whistle needs to blow almost every time (preferably at the start of the next season).

      On the positive side, refs do appear to be on top penalties in the opposition 20. Hopefully they start enforcing this even more heavily in future. I’d like to see a guideline of two consecutive penalties inside 20 and the player is sin binned (with some flexibility if the ref judges the penalty to be accidental or milked).

    • September 12th 2017 @ 11:02am
      Wild Eagle said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      The solution is simple, when grown men who have just been duded by the Refs and Bunker you just get Todd to come in and deny they have a point and tell them to grow up.

      Your days are numbered Todd and you are factually wrong.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 2:42pm
        Tom G said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

        Greenberg seems to think you can fine yourself to correctness. Can’t find answers slap on a fine to shut people’s opinions down. Pathetic administrator

        • September 12th 2017 @ 5:35pm
          Wild Eagle said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

          What is Barrett meant to say if asked a question as to whether he thinks his team were robbed?

          Grow up and lie is what Greenburg is telling him to do.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 12:01pm
      Big Daddy said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

      When was the last time you saw a touchie run in to report foul play.
      Instead they are there barking orders into players ear’s from the sideline.
      If 2 refs are unable to handle the high pressure of the games why do want these wannabes interfering in general play.
      Let them stick to putting their flags up for goal attempts and balls in touch.
      Brett suttor is a prime example – couldn’t make as a ref but still wants to be one albeit from the sideline.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm
      Josh said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      Flannagan complained about 10 decisions. Ive seen them all as a neutral fan and id say i was ok with all of them. Some were 50/50 so which ever way the decision went thier was no right anwser. As for Barrett the tries were all debateable and on the footy show 2 legends of the game in fittler and johns dissgreed on them so i dont see how the refs were wrong theu were 50/50 calls. Their wasnt any howlers on the weekend well not from the refs anyway but the Sharks players now thats where the howlers were

      • September 12th 2017 @ 12:41pm
        Wild Eagle said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

        Read the Tele today and see what an actual referee has to say. They got plenty wrong.

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 7:28pm
          Cadfael said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

          I did and I thought McCallum made as many mistakes as the on field refs/bunker.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 2:16pm
      Dan said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

      But sometimes the Touchies do their job but are then gobsmackingly over ruled by the inept Refs (case in point the first try the storm scored on the weekend when the touchie’s correctly called it a forward pass but it was over ruled by the peanut with the whistle around hi neck).

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 7:30pm
        Cadfael said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

        Not just that but we had the touchie calling out “offside” in a gamer but was ignored by the ref. I still think two referees on the field is a mistake. it works in AFL because of the size of the ground. We still hear contradicting call of play on and play the ball.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 2:38pm
      Tom G said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

      Touchies are spectators with flags.

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