The majority of rugby league fans are left with a sour taste in their mouth after trying to reason with a particularly controversial figure of our game. The man is Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield and, according to him – and I quote – “rugby league is now a s*** game”.
Rugby league is now a shit game.
— BUZZ ROTHFIELD (@BuzzRothfield) April 14, 2018
It prompted chief executive of the NRL Todd Greenberg to call upon the true fans of the sport to #TalkTheGameUp, which saw a host of supporters and high-profile current and former players such as Cameron Smith and Corey Parker stand in support.
Recently, the rugby league community has descended into fierce debate over the refereeing crackdown. The majority have backed the decision and recognise it as pivotal to the future success of our sport. Rothfield, however, has been a critic of the move and has consistently focused on how this is ruining the game.
In fact, in a statement released last night, he revealed that the penalty blitz was the primary reason for his stunning labelling of rugby league as “shit”.
In the statement, Buzz expressed his regret in what he wrote. It was refreshing and I give him credit for having the courage to come out and admit that. Yet, one can only hope that he and the media in general can act upon this claim. Too often I visit the Tele and read headlines such as “Referees steal the show in Good Friday thriller.”
I understand – controversy sells. However, surely there are enough positive stories that supporters would actually like to read about?
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The frantic finish of the South Sydney versus Canterbury game in question was enough in itself to entice readers without unnecessarily centring on the match officials. What about the feel-good story of the year – the rise of the previously underperforming Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors? In particular, the rapid improvement of both Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall has been a joy to witness.
Even Buzz himself last night published an article headlined “Maloney shaping as buy of the year”. More of this from such influential journalists as Rothfield will repair the tiring stream of referee blaming and negativity.
In Friday night’s clash between the Dragons and Sharks, ten tries were scored, even though 23 penalties were blown. It is possible to entertain with the officiating restriction.
Criticism can be important in stimulating change. Yet it is important to know the difference between criticism that is beneficial and that which is counter-productive.
It is a lesson that Buzz learnt this weekend and he will be a better journalist for it.