In response to Mary Konstantopoulos’s article ‘In defence of referees’, I’m sorry but I have to disagree. The NRL’s lack of spectacle this season is 100 per cent referees’ fault.
Not this year’s crop of referees necessarily though.
I am 100 per cent supportive of the penalty crackdown, because it had to happen.
Over the last decade or so, the refs have allowed standards to slip.
How many years did we watch Andrew Fifita lazily step over the ball instead of rolling it with his foot? We called it out for years, but only recently has it been penalised. Guess what, Fifita no longer lazily steps over the ball!
How many years did we complain about the Roosters intentionally giving away penalties on their own line to reset their defence and get a breather? Their whole premiership year it was talked about, but nothing was done, and every team started doing it as a result. So the refs started sin binning repeated infringements. Union has had this all over us for years.
How many years did we complain about how the Storm’s wrestling tactics in the ruck was an ugly spectacle for the game because we want fast play the balls and a running game? There’s a good reason Cameron Smith was the most penalised player in the game this year only a few weeks back and it’s not because he’d lost discipline, it’s because he’s just now being pulled up on what he should have been getting penalised for the last decade or more. Quickly, being the rugby league genius that he is, Smith corrected his and his team’s game.
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Yes, it’s 100 per cent the fault of the refs, but not necessarily the current crop.
They’ll cop it this year, but they’ve been protected for far too long by the NRL, so I won’t lose sleep over it. Todd Greenberg should back them to the hilt and the result will be that one team will adapt quicker than the rest, reduce penalties, and win the grand final.
For years we’ve been looking at measures to speed the game up, allow the little men a chance, and see faster, attacking footy. But maybe we wouldn’t have needed any measures had the officials been doing their jobs and blowing penalties.
If teams don’t mess around in the ruck, put hands on the ball, pull legs, actually get square at marker, get back the ten, and stop repeatedly infringing within the attacking zone, the game will have a fire lit underneath it and the crowds will return.
To the current crop of referees, I say blow the pea out of the bloody thing. The game will adapt. Those who don’t will die and we will return to an even better spectacle.
We have to go through this to get where we need to be.
I’ll say the same thing Mary told Parramatta supporters a few weeks ago: “Trust the process”.