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

Greg Prichard Columnist

By Greg Prichard, Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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63 Have your say

    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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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • September 13th 2017 @ 7:25am
      Paul said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Only 3 of the 13 are still playing in the finals series. Yeah, great team………

      • Roar Guru

        September 13th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Adam said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        My thoughts exactly. What a terrible team overall.

    • Roar Guru

      September 13th 2017 @ 7:26am
      eagleJack said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      As you say there are faults with the refereeing and the Bunker and an intensive review must be done.

      But according to Greenberg everything is perfect, refs are human after all, and Archer’s position isn’t even under scrutiny.

      They can keep handing out fines all they like. Make them $100k each. But it won’t fix the root cause of the problem. And that is the referees in the NRL aren’t up to standard. And the system in place means there is zero accountability. Now I understand it’s a tough job. And bagging the refs makes it unlikely that others will join the ranks. I mean who would actually choose this as a career?

      But perhaps they need to spend time over at the other code – rugby union – to get some tips. Now there’s a complicated sport where a single referee must watch multiple things all at once. He doesn’t have a mate out there like in the NRL to watch as a guy is being tackled. And then gets to his feet to play the ball. Not a lot of variables can arise in that situation. Yet the strip/loose carry is the most inconsistent rule in the game.

      No the rugby referee has to watch a dozen things at all times on his own. But he communicates very well with his touch judges. It’s professional.

      We have the best athletes/footballers in the world playing in the NRL. Rugby would kill for the talent on display week to week. But we do not have the best humans holding the whistles. That is very obvious for anyone who watches a number of different sports.

      The system has to change and Archer has to go.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 7:36am
        Dan said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Spot on about the referees in Rugby and the proof is in the way hardly anyone carries on about refs after the match.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 8:10am
        Gray-Hand said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Referees in Rugby, particularly those below international level, are no better than League referees. There are tons of inconsistencies and errors made by rugby union referees in every game.
        Union referees don’t catch the same level of abuse because:
        1. The game simply requires more ‘interpretation’ of rules by a referee.
        2. It isn’t part of the culture of the game.

        • Roar Guru

          September 13th 2017 @ 8:20am
          The Barry said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

          Good points gray hand but I don’t think refs faulting like this was part of league culture until recently.

          • September 13th 2017 @ 12:50pm
            Gray-Hand said | September 13th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

            I agree. It has gradually built up as television coverage has improved. More cameras and more angles and better picture quality allow for a greater degree of examination of every little moment of the game.
            If the television coverage didn’t dwell on every 50/50 call, fans wouldn’t either.

      • Roar Guru

        September 13th 2017 @ 8:12am
        The Barry said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        eJ – I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written.

        If Barrett and Flanagan had come out with measured responses about the quality of decision making then good for them and I back them.

        But both just blew up like spoiled brats. “Refs cost us the game” is the most overblown overused comment in the game.

        Cronulla and Manly had plenty of chance to put their opposition away but were their own worst enemies.

        Barrett has a fair point about the Walker try (not the other two) but it’s lost in his salty little refs fault whine.

        Flanagan was a disgrace. Reading a list of decisions, some of which he just got absolutely stone cold wrong, while simultaneously ignoring the lucky calls his team got that led directly to two Cronulla tries. Beyond pathetic.

        Meanwhile his two star players both f-ed up genuine field goal opportunities by being hogs. I think his team needs a bit of work in the accountability front, not a helping hand finding a scapegoat.

        I’d be mortified if my seven year old behaved like Flanagan – he’d be in trouble like he’s never seen before.

        • September 13th 2017 @ 11:31am
          Rob said | September 13th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          Spot on Barry. The nature of the attack by Flanagan was straight out of kindergarden. It was embassarising for not only himself, his players and his supporters but the game. I’d say if a schoolboy coach or captain carried on like that after a game a good headmaster would probably ban them from coaching or captaining the team again.
          He at no stage acknowledged the opponent then ranted absolute dribble. Coote was not offside in the Maloney sin binning but he was calling for a penalty to the Sharks. Paul Gallen consistently drops the ball late in the tackle count or in front of the sticks if he feels they’re are hand near the ball. He has done for some time. In the Sharks loss to the Roosters Flanagan stated” if tha’ts Andrew Fafita instead of Boyde Cordner the Sharks don’t recieve a penalty. Well Fafita was award a penalty the week before against the Cowboys for the exact same thing only Fafita threw himself in the air and dropped the ball? is his memory that short and selective? His conduct and poor sportsmanship was disgraceful.

        • September 13th 2017 @ 4:33pm
          The Spectator said | September 13th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

          Firstly no coach should ever bag ref’s after a game, wait a few days first ? , TB, I’ve seen alot of your posts lately on this and makes one wonder how could anyone be so one sided, oh a ref, you a ref TB? How can more officials involved get more wrong than those with less tech! Cmon mate, a grade is how the game should be played not the hybrid nrl version suited for who, the traditionalist or the new viewer, it’s not that hard yet explain the the last 6-7 yrs, I’m too lazy and don’t care as much any more to bother but over lap a graph on penalties and when there blown for who and it’s obvious. If nrl was played like A grade there’s no issue, but it isn’t!

          • Roar Guru

            September 13th 2017 @ 4:51pm
            The Barry said | September 13th 2017 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            Mate – if they did wait a couple of days and came up with objective reasoning instead of carrying on like kids in primary school they’d get a better response.

            Nah, never been a ref, never want to be a ref, don’t like refs. But I was brought up to respect their decision and get on with the game.

            Better in A grade? Come on mate I’ve spent to many Sunday afternoons at Waverley and Waterloo to know that’s not true…

        • September 14th 2017 @ 5:13pm
          Deano70 said | September 14th 2017 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

          Cronulla made 17 errors in that game, say the average error was made at tackle 3, that’s 51 plays they deprived themselves of, even 4thtackle errors is 34 individual plays they robbed themselves of. Flanagan should be ripping it up the players not the refs. 17 errors is a lot, but if you consider how many plays in each set they cost themselves, over the course of the game, it’s a lot of opportunities missed

          • Roar Guru

            September 14th 2017 @ 5:55pm
            The Barry said | September 14th 2017 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

            That’s an interesting way of looking at it.

            It’s also approx 51 tackles the Cowboys didn’t have to make.

            51 times the Cowboys defence didn’t have to go back and come forward.

            Plus the extra defensive work the Sharks had to do.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 8:39am
        PeterMc said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Can only imagine that the refs are officiating in the manner that Archer wants. Is Archer then the one dictating the current poor standards, or is he being told what to do? Has the game evolved by itself to the current situation? Immediate change is possible if someone wants to push it. The recent Lions tour of NZ saw French refs involved. They don’t put up with the same level of ‘grey’ rules and as a consequence many of the All Blacks tactics where they push the limits of the law all of a sudden became blown infringements. It took them about three penalties until they modified their game to suit.
        If the NRL refs were to sit the teams down and explain its a brave new world from round 1 next season, and then go on to enforce the ‘intent’ of the rules then teams will quickly adapt.
        It is in their own hands. I thought the refs had a fair game in most instances in a very dynamic environment. However Ben Cummings, rather than telling Beau Scott three times to walk away, should have done it once – when Beau persisted he should have awarded a penalty – when Beau argued the point he should be marched ten. Then the refs will start to gain the respect the Union officials do. And we will have a better game!

        • September 13th 2017 @ 9:28am
          Mike from tari said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          I agree with you on the refereeing to the rules next year & with Beau Scott carrying on with Cummings, one thing I have noticed this year has been an upsurge in players fronting the refs when tries are scored or penalties go against them, one player in particular is Darius Boyd, every time he is tackled he looks at the ref, most times when his team is penalised he is in the refs face, then every time a try is scored against his team he is just about face planting the ref, Greenberg now needs to pull the players into to line to stop this kind of antic right now.

          • Roar Guru

            September 13th 2017 @ 9:36am
            Adam said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

            Yep, Boyd is pretty bad with how close he gets to the referee. There is a reason that Cam Smith has so much influence over the referees. He calmly approaches them with a well thought out question. This approach obviously stands out more to the officials than simply yelling in their faces.

          • September 13th 2017 @ 8:27pm
            Chris Wright said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:27pm | ! Report

            Another twist to this is one of my team’s players (ex player) Josh Dugan. He rarely gets a quick play the ball because after every tackle he gets up waving his arms to the ref complaining about not getting a penalty. This often occurs after he has “won” the ruck and a quick play the ball would have helped the Dragons cause.

    • Roar Guru

      September 13th 2017 @ 7:35am
      eagleJack said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      As for the RLPA team of the year. Come on Greg, look at the format and then you’ll understand why particular players are picked.

      They aren’t necessarily the best on the field that day. Simply the best players from the opposition. If the Storm have just played the Tigers, when the Storm get into the sheds after the game they select the 3 best Tigers players that day. I’d say close to every time Tedesco would get a vote. He is the guy who caused you plenty of angst. Similarly Woods would get plenty of votes too.

      Now the Dally M judge on the sidelines is looking at the entire game. Voting for the best on the field that day. He’s more than likely going to have 3 Storm players getting the votes. As such we often get disparity between the Dally M and the RLPA award.

      A standout player in a weak team may poll very well in the RLPA format. Perhaps not so well in the Dally M, as it’s tough to impress the judges if your team keeps losing.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 8:41am
        Wild Eagle said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        So Greg is bagging the people who have chosen the Team of the year and saying they got it wrong. End result is that the team of the year is wrong.

        Yet people bagging the refs when they get it wrong are out of order?

        Isn’t the most important thing to change what isn’t right instead of shooting the messenger ?

        Maybe the teams still in the finals series are also wrong as is the team of the year as per Gregs logic.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 13th 2017 @ 7:36am
      Matthew Pearce said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      That team of the year is a joke. one player total from the entire top four. What have these people been watching?

      • September 13th 2017 @ 10:02am
        Happy as Larry! said | September 13th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        The players vote for the award after the game…i imagine they are watching pretty closely….since they are the ones making the tackles and running the ball. Cant be watching any closer than that!

        • Roar Rookie

          September 13th 2017 @ 10:10am
          Matthew Pearce said | September 13th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          The selection and voting process means that players from inferior teams can get in over players from superior teams, I understand that.

          But I would seriously dispute that half of these blokes are even the standout performers in their team, let alone the comp.

          Most of the blokes winning the individual awards aren’t in that team either.

    • September 13th 2017 @ 7:43am
      Dan said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Is there anyone else who can almost predict when the next penalty will be blown? Sharks struggling to get out of their own 20, 5th tackle, Leutele loses the ball cold and penalty awarded. Was there any doubt it would have been pulled up for a knock-on? My main beef with the referees is that it is quite apparent they sometimes try to manage the games rather then ref it.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 13th 2017 @ 7:54am
        Matthew Pearce said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        I think that’s the mandate now, “manage the game”. That’s what we really should be talking about, instead of “howlers!”

        Plenty of aspects about the refereeing to get annoyed at, this is closer than most of what we’ve seen over the past few days.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 7:59am
        Zedman said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        Actually this was one incident where the ref got it correct, the ball was knocked out by a Cowboy knee. Surely we don’t need another article about the refs in last weeks games, lets move on to what should be a couple of ripper games this week.

        • Roar Guru

          September 13th 2017 @ 8:25am
          The Barry said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

          Hi Zeddy – this shows how futile the refs faulting and quest for ‘perfection’ is.

          I thought that Leutele decision was the worst call of the weekend.

          If with our combined ‘expertise’ we really can’t agree on what the outcome should be, what hope do the refs have of coming up with an answer that will keep everyone happy?

          Everyone needs to accept that the ref has his own view and sometimes we’ll agree and sometimes we won’t but we just need to cop it on the chin and get on with the game.

          • September 13th 2017 @ 9:31am
            Zedman said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

            Baz i can’t imagine any young bloke or woman wanting to take on reffing after the display by the coaches on the weekend. On the Leutele decision i thought it could have gone either way, penalty or lost ball, players today do not hang on to the ball for dear life, stripping rule to blame for this, crikey lets not start on that one lol. Unfortunately the quality of all four games has been pushed into the background because of all the controversey.

        • September 13th 2017 @ 8:27am
          AGO74 said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

          Good point – just quietly and I know this may be controversial! But how good were all 4 of last weeks games?

          Yes there were some ref controversy but you know what I also thought having watched all 4 games – the best team in all 4 games won.

          • Roar Guru

            September 13th 2017 @ 9:03am
            Nat said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

            Yep. I was literally on the edge of my chair for all 4 games. Invested in 1 (and lost – bloody refs :), interested in 1 and thoroughly enjoyed the other 2. The Sunday Qld ISC game was a cracker as well.

        • September 13th 2017 @ 10:53am
          Matt Hill said | September 13th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          It wasn’t knocked out by the knee, it was pushed into Leutele’s other arm and then Leutele has thrown both his arms forward and spat the ball out the front. I watched it back three times to show my kids what he did. The Cowboys had just completed 5 tackles keeping the Sharks just outside their own 20m line and the reward was the ref swallowing the complete act that Leutele put on. They then went down the field and scored a try from this, I noticed Flannagan didn’t list that decision in his list of errors.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 2:29pm
        Oingo Boingo said | September 13th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

        If dunno about that , but did predict Gallen would hog the ball in his usual display of glory seeking and then make a meal of it in an attempt to get the penalty.

    • September 13th 2017 @ 8:24am
      AGO74 said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      As a sharks fan who was there on Sunday I’m realistic enough to say refs calls didn’t lose them the game. Sharks beat themselves like they have done all season. Sharks performance on Sunday was a snapshot of whole season – errors, cheap penalties (most valid/others less so) and missed tackles. I have no problem with the nrl fining Flanagan. Still think the worst one I’ve seen all season was Ricky blowing up at refs in game when Soliola should have been sent off.

      As for the rlpa players team of year if that’s a snapshot of the quality of “rational” decision making in that group then who knows how this pay dispute will end…..

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