Shane Flanagan is right

Chris Love Roar Guru

By Chris Love, Chris Love is a Roar Guru

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47 Have your say

    There is plenty of talk about crowd numbers being dismal for an NRL finals series and loads of reasons are put out there as to why.

    Fixture timings, locations, public transport, the teams that are playing (interstate fans), and the ‘watch-ability’ of rugby league on the TV, right through to the price of tickets and hot dogs – these are all paraded out as reasons why these stadiums aren’t being filled.

    Sure, some or all of those things are factors for some of the fans, some of the time. But none of these things will be a factor all of the time. None of these things are turning people away from the game itself.

    Having three coaches from four games played on the weekend getting stuck into referees in the press conference is certainly not a good look for the game. But one thing that will turn people away from the game for good is being emotionally invested in a rugby league team and continually watching them lose games of football based off the poor or, even worse, inconsistent decisions of referees.

    This is especially noticeable when it is costing your team a finals spot or a game within the finals.

    I can feel for the Cowboys in years gone by and I certainly felt for the Titans last year. The fact the Cowboys may (or may not) have got one back from the universe for being ‘unlucky’ in previous years does not help the Manly fans this year.

    Paul Kent said in his article on Monday that “no other game in the world questions its officials like rugby league”. While I would beg to differ on that point, especially when it comes to European football, I would also say that no other game in the world has referees that are so consistently inconsistent.

    Every week we have howlers from our referees that are inexcusable. From a blatant knock on in front of the ref to a Bunker who gets to watch it multiple times in slow-mo and still comes up with a way to get it wrong, there’s no justification.

    I bet if you asked all of the refs to rule on a send-off right now we would get plenty of different answers.

    From game to game, the same referees are making different decisions on the same pieces of play. How are we supposed to get different referees to be consistent with each other?

    Todd Greenberg said that the game needs to grow up. I say Todd Greenberg and all of his recent predecessors going back to David Gallop need to wake up.

    Wake up to the fact that their referees are not improving. Not a single bit. Protecting them and fining coaches for calling out their incompetent performance is not going to help.

    The fan that has just seen his team dudded wants his coach to rip into the referees as much as his players do. Like it or not, when that coach gets fined, that fan gets even more pissed off.

    Now I can see those wanting to protect the referees now lining up to have a crack at me. But I doubt very few of you would say that Shane Flanagan, Trent Barrett and Brad Arthur have not a single thing to complain about – and you’re probably ready to tell me the refs weren’t the difference in three of the four finals games played on the weekend.

    Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    Then tell me this, how, in a competition that is meant to provide such an even playing field with an even salary paid out by each club, are teams supposed to win games when refereeing decisions appear to be so wrong?

    Yet we want to focus on how many missed tackles or errors a team made, like it is impossible to win a game with so many errors or missed tackles.

    Don’t get me wrong. I was delighted with the Cowboys getting over the Sharks and will still not give up a chance to stick it to a Sharkie fan if given the opportunity.

    My little brother is a Manly fan and I will have no problem telling him that both the calls Barrett was blowing up about were more than likely right calls. Parramatta, on the other hand, had every right to be upset with the refereeing after really taking it to Melbourne on Saturday night. No explanations will convince Parramatta fans the first two Melbourne tries were iron-clad correct decisions.

    On the flip side, Parramatta could have had players in the bin at one point in the second half. But I guess that’s my point. Some of the controversial decisions detracted from a fantastic spectacle.

    Shane Flanagan is right. We can forget about these other reasons crowd numbers are so low because fans being gutted by refereeing is a bigger problem for the NRL than how long it takes to get a park at a Sydney stadium or the price of a hot dog.

    Those fans that don’t turn up to games for these reasons aren’t lost to the game. They’re still sitting at home cheering on their team.

    The NRL just has to find a way to do better.

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • September 13th 2017 @ 4:32am
      Craig said | September 13th 2017 @ 4:32am | ! Report

      Terrible article.

      Flannagan should be fined 100k for his ridiculous rant. Turning up to a press conference with a list of grievances about the refs is the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen in league since Hopoate. Throw in the fact that half of the grievances were actually wrong and/or line-ball makes it even more ridiculous.

      Ricky Stuart getting stuck into the refs after the storm game, when amazingly, the whole rugby league community united and said Soliola should’ve been sent off, yet somehow Stuart still has the nerve to complain even though they should’ve been playing one short?

      This article isn’t written if Flannagan doesn’t embarrassing himself, his club and the game at that press conference.

      Rugby league needs to stop tearing itself down from the insides. BLokes like Gould, Flannagan, Stuart (probably the worst offender) who all supposedly “love the game” continually criticise and tear it down.

      Flannagan was not right. He was not right in his criticisms and he was 10000000% not right in the way he went about it.

    • September 13th 2017 @ 6:00am
      qwetzen said | September 13th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      Amongst more errors in this ridiculous and embarrassing tirade than the Broncs v Chooks game featured this one caught the eye; “Then tell me this, how, in a competition that is meant to provide such an even playing field with an even salary paid out by each club…”. The NRL is not an even playing field. It’s not a full Home & Away comp, some teams are (much) more disadvantaged during SoO season and the GF is always in Sydney. A rant will have more credibility if it doesn’t base a sub-rant on a false premise.

    • Roar Guru

      September 13th 2017 @ 6:39am
      The Barry said | September 13th 2017 @ 6:39am | ! Report

      Chris – first of all i think your article is well reasoned and well argued. No surprise – i respectfully disagree!

      I have two problems with Flanagans rant.

      1. a few of the things he called out he actually got wrong.

      2. It completely ignored the fact that two Cronulla tries came off the back of 50/50 calls. So by Flanagan’s own rationale of the refs costing him the game, it can be argued just as logically that it was only the refs that kept them in the game.

      Every single gripe about referees this weekend comes up with a list of decisions that went against them. None of them take into account the 50/50 calls that went their way. That’s why it’s so lame.

      Ever since I’ve been watching / playing footy there’s been arguments about refs decisions. The drop ball that one set of fans thinks is a knock on. The pass that has half the crowd yelling “forward”. 50/50 calls aren’t a new phenomenon to rugby league and peculiar to this group of referees.

      What’s new is this salty reaction afterwards of coaches sitting there after EVERY game and blaming refs for the loss.

      What’s new is not accepting a refs decision and getting on with the game.

      The thing is, it doesn’t matter how professional and well trained the referees are, how good the technology review system is. There are going to be multiple calls in every single game that could go either way.

      Experts can’t agree on whether a ball has been grounded. “The point of the ball was grounded there” “no there’s an arm under it”

      How are refs supposed to come up with a “correct” call when the decision is so subjective? One set of fans will be howling regardless.

      Barrett was blowing up about Uates try not being allowed. That was as clear a knock on as I’ve ever seen. How can we take them seriously? The other decisions were just variations on a theme.

      You write about the Curtis Scott forward pass. I’m not convinced it was forward. We all know (or should know) that it’s physically impossible to throw a ball backwards while running.

      I thought at the time and I still think now that Scott tried to throw the ball backwards. It was touched simultaneously as it came out of his hand, which throws doubt on the calls trajectory immediately and Scott was tackled as he passed it which exaggerates the appearance of the ball floating forward.

      I was perfectly happy with that being called a try. And I would have understood completely if it was called back. That’s the very nature of the game.

      Anyone who can say they absolutely know that the ball was travelling forwards in the 0.05 of a second between Scott throwing the pass and the ball being touched by a Parramatta hand is kidding themselves.

      We need to water down this attitude of “I saw a strip so therefore the referee is wrong and incompetent”

      • September 13th 2017 @ 11:43am
        StAdam said | September 13th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        Agree with most of your points TB. Reading through an endless tirade (on The Roar as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc) direced at the referees which I don’t think is completely justified. People need to understand that these guys are doing the best they can – running many kilometres each game, working under fatigue, and probably under even more pressure than the players performing in the finals series. I agree there are some inconsistencies week in week out, however, no matter who you put out on the field to officiate or who you place in the bunker – there will always be a couple of 50/50 calls that go against your team.

        I think Flannagan has no right to complain as his side were incredibly poor on Sunday (has not addressed this once since full time) and probably didn’t deserve to win the match regardless of any calls made by the refs. Watching the Parra vs Storm and Manly vs Panthers game I can sympathise a little bit more with those losing sides, but if you only complete 60% of your sets against the Cowboys and make as many errors as his team did on the weekend – If I were him I’d be much more worried about those figures rather than any conspiracy theories about the referees.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 13th 2017 @ 6:50pm
        Bunney said | September 13th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

        Hey Chris,

        TB’s final comment here is pretty spot on:

        “Anyone who can say they absolutely know that the ball was travelling forwards in the 0.05 of a second between Scott throwing the pass and the ball being touched by a Parramatta hand is kidding themselves.”

        I suggest you try reading this book. Might help you realise the prescience of the quote above:

        • September 13th 2017 @ 9:16pm
          Wild Eagle said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

          Greg McCallum, former leading ref said “the ball clearly left the hands in a forward direction”

          I saw the same thing as did the commentators and even in the replay I didn’t see a Gorilla.

          The ball traveled far enough to tell the direction it was travelling in and I had no trouble seeing that.

          The former ref also said ‘We need desperately to get a system in place to offer support on detecting forward passes’

          TB’s comment is untrue.

          • Roar Guru

            September 14th 2017 @ 6:52am
            The Barry said | September 14th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

            WE – I accept that you saw something different to me. That doesn’t make you right and me wrong. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong and I’m right. It certainly doesn’t make the referee wrong.

            But that’s at the core of this whole problem.

            If we get 100 knowledgeable people in a room and ask about that try we’ll get a variety of answers. Look at the comments over the last couple of days about this and the other decisions. There’s no consensus on any of the decisions.

            The problem we have is the people (like yourself) who think it was a forward pass and then blow up for days on end. Can’t you see that if the ref calls it forward we still have a people blowing up at the decision? The same with all the decisions over the weekend.

            If everyone has your attitude every decision is a howler and the refs can’t win. How do they make decisions on this pass, the Peachey try, the Gallen knock on, etc and keep everyone happy?

            Your expectations are literally impossible.

            Overall I enjoy your contributions here – a bit Manly centric but that’s cool – I’d love to hear your practical response on how the refs can adjudicate on these 50/50 decisions and not have 50% of the people blowing up.

        • September 14th 2017 @ 6:28am
          Chris Love said | September 14th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

          The touchie was telling the ref the ball was passed forward and he completely brushed him because it was touched. He cut him off and only wanted info on the put down. He didn’t even let him finish. That was the bit that needs better performance from the referees. He could have taken it to the bunker once he heard forward but was too arrogant to. The second it touched the parramatta player it was no longer in the forward pass category it was in the knock on category.

      • September 14th 2017 @ 4:55pm
        Chris Love said | September 14th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

        TB great Post.
        1. I agree, not everything he was complaining about was correct. The part the headline refers to is his comment that the NRL has bigger problems.
        2. Your comment comes with the premise that all the ones he was referring to were 50/50’s. That is incorrect and I’m sure on review even the refs in question would admit some of them weren’t 50/50 and they got them wrong.
        3. Only one eyed fans spit the dummy on a legit 50/50. Some of the ones on the weekend were far from that.
        4. The premise that ball can’t be thrown backwards while running is false. Where that ball travels relative to the lines is another story. The error with that call was how the ref handled it. See my comment below. The Cronk to Glasby juggle on the other hand?
        5. Depending on where the ref is there are plenty that can be forgiven. What can’t be forgiven is a touchie telling him it was passed forward and him having the technology to check it and him refusing to use it. In that 0.05 of a second are you telling me the ref is 100% sure it wasn’t projected out of the hand forward? He’s got a touchie telling him it was forward, he knows it was touched making it a possible knock on and he just awards the try. The fact that it went so far forward should have had him erring on the side of caution and going to the bunker.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 13th 2017 @ 7:14am
      Matthew Pearce said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      Why is it that we only hear about refereeing being an “issue” when certain teams are dudded? There was nowhere near this level of furor when Newcastle were shafted by a 100% wrong decision. Nathan Brown, to his credit, didn’t carry on like a headless chook about it either, unlike the embarrassment of this weekend.

      There’s plenty of aspects of the officiating that get me frustrated during games, but never would I ever say that we have “inexcusable howlers every week”. That’s just ridiculous.

      Flanagan would not have even mentioned the refs if Cronulla had gotten the win, he blatantly ignored the calls that went in his favour, he refused to give any credit to the Cows, and his rant was silly and misguided.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 13th 2017 @ 6:51pm
        Bunney said | September 13th 2017 @ 6:51pm | ! Report

        “Flanagan would not have even mentioned the refs if Cronulla had gotten the win”


        Ergo, his rant cannot be taken seriously

        • September 13th 2017 @ 9:24pm
          Wild Eagle said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:24pm | ! Report

          The fact that he did or didn’t mention the refs doesn’t alter one thing. What happened in the game is what needs to be examined truthfully not what either coach say.

          Teams who win tend not to worry about refs errors , they have just won! Wow what a big surprise.

          • Roar Rookie

            September 13th 2017 @ 11:18pm
            Bunney said | September 13th 2017 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

            You’re missing the point Wild Eagle.

            The decision you are referring to may well have been an error or a bad call by the refs…but the point is these “bad” calls happen multiple times each match / week / season and they in essence balance out.
            If you’re not going to get upset about the refereeing standard when you get a dud call in your favour, do you have any right to complain when you get a dud call go against you?

            I would suggest not.

            • September 14th 2017 @ 8:11am
              Karma Miranda said | September 14th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

              On the contrary, Wild Eagle’s point is completely valid.

              We didn’t hear Paul Greene blowing up about bad calls on Sunday after his team had the rub go their way. But it was a very different story when the Cowboys lost to the Storm a month ago and he was fined ten Gorillas for his own rant, wasn’t it?

              • Roar Guru

                September 14th 2017 @ 8:36am
                The Barry said | September 14th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

                The Cowboys didn’t have the ‘rub of the green’ go their way.

                The Sharks scored two tries / ten points directly off the back of dubious 50/50 calls. That’s what makes Flanagans outburst so childish and so wrong.

                You’re only saying the Cowboys got the rub of the green because they were good enough to win.

                If the Sharks were good enough to close the game out in extra time, Cowboys fans would be talking about the rub of the green.

        • September 13th 2017 @ 10:19pm
          Big Daddy said | September 13th 2017 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

          Same as his comment not knowing his players were on peptide’s.
          He’s in denial.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 9:33pm
        Wild Eagle said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

        No teams are ever shafted by wrong decisions apparently so if it can’t happen to Sharks ,Eagles and Eels then it didn’t happen to Knights.

        I am certain the Knights and the Eagles lost games this year due to wrong calls but because Barrett spat the dummy both he and I are wrong. The logic is just so daft.

        Good teams overcome adversity I am lectured to. A young Knights team can’t over come a dud call but this call doesn’t alter the result I am told.

    • September 13th 2017 @ 7:39am
      Nodge said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      100% agree with this article. Even more influence by the refs comes from the extra 2 to 3 seconds longer in every tackle certain teams get, yes the Storm.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 12:29pm
        Gags said | September 13th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report


      • Roar Rookie

        September 13th 2017 @ 6:53pm
        Bunney said | September 13th 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

        Except that this isn’t even true.

        Matthew Elliot on Grandstand the other day revealed the Storm are not even in the top 5 for slowing the play the ball down.

        Time for a new argument

    • September 13th 2017 @ 7:42am
      Birdy said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Sorry Chris,
      I thought your article was going to be an unbiased and informed set of reasons why our crowds are down.
      Instead its just more ref bagging .
      The only 2 complaints i have with the refs is being too familiar with the players, it should be number 9 not Cameron. Sounds like junior park football.
      The main thing i have against reffering is that they are not allowed to act on certain rules.
      Not their fault its their instructions.
      Its all media driven to supposedly speed up the game, instead its changjng Our game.
      The only good rule that the media helped change was the corner post.
      Keep the media out and give us back our game.
      Captains call.
      I have still not seen a reasonable argument not to have a captain’s call. If used properly it would free up the refs to just rule a try or penalty keeping the game moving while also allowing the captain or coach to ask for video cinfirmatiin.

      • Roar Guru

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

        I agree Birdy. The refs refer to the players by their name and the players call them every other name under the sun. There should be a degree of separation/authority. Although I’m not completely sold on the Captains Call. Only for the fact it just refers the decision up to the video ref and we may get the very same response as we are getting now. It would stop howlers like Manly/Newcastle but they are in the 1% category which are awarded without referral. Even then, like cricket, if the Captain incorrectly uses his referrals early a howler can still possibly stand. This article, like the 100 others this year show some people are never going to accept a 50/50 call.

        • September 13th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Birdy said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          I can see merit in a captain’s call if its not abused.
          An article the other day stated that in all games all refs get an average if 97% correct calls. Not bad for humans.
          One source of frustration though is the overuse of the video ref.
          If you introduce captains call with a limit of say 3 calls per half it would encourage more on the spot rulings by the refs while still having control over the teams with a 3 call limit.
          An excellent idea on another article was to scrap the bunker and have the ref review the result himself on a sideline set up.

          • September 13th 2017 @ 12:24pm
            Peter Phelps said | September 13th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

            One way to help this is give the captains 2 calls per game and if they are proved right then they are given their call back. It would stop the stupid calls simply because we have them.

          • Roar Guru

            September 13th 2017 @ 1:57pm
            Nat said | September 13th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

            Ok, I understand that. So the premise of the Captains Call is for the speed of the game. Are you willing to sacrifice accuracy? If the amount of ‘Calls’ are limited, you still allow the opportunity for a howler. Conversley, if they have unlimited reviews, it could be as slow as today as you will be asking for honesty from the players to admit they couldn’t hold the player up or Uate definitely grounded it. Then the video ref may still rule in favour of the on-field ref. As an example, would you have reviewed the Uate try? Would you be happy if that same no-try kicked your team out of the finals?

            • September 13th 2017 @ 2:31pm
              Birdy said | September 13th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

              Nat i would go with Peter Phelps comment.
              Use it correctly or lose it.thats jow i see it.
              “The ref still has the option of the video ref as often as he likes.”
              The captains call gives him the opportunity to go with his own instincts.
              I cant see how it increases the risk of howlers. He still has an assistant ref and two touchies.
              A bad call that costs my team a spot in the GF will give me something to talk about for the rest of my life but wont stop me from loving the game.

            • September 13th 2017 @ 2:45pm
              Peter Phelps said | September 13th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

              I would tend to say that a captains call should be an automatic referal to the bunker. After all, the captain is either challenging the ref’s decision or something which the ref didn’t see. Speed is good and the bunker is reasonably quick these days but not at the expense of accuracy.

            • September 13th 2017 @ 2:49pm
              Peter Phelps said | September 13th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

              The other advantage would be that it would cut down the whinging. After all it is hard to whinge about the ref’s decision on an incident if your own captain didn’t challenge it.

              Something would need to be done about off the ball and minor incidents otherwise we could get lots of these being challenged.

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