When NRL boss Todd Greenberg ordered a crackdown on referees earlier in the season, he opened a tin of worms.
He requested all referees to make sure the team in possession played the ball with a foot, not simply rolling the ball back under the foot to the dummy half.
Greenberg never should have been placed in that position.
His predecessors way back, and the referees of the day, gradually allowed a sloppy play the ball until it became unwritten ‘law’.
Shrewd coaches jumped on the bandwagon in their endeavours to speed up possession, to further cement the unwritten ‘law’.
The real law reads – “When the ball touches the ground it must be heeled (ie backwards) by the tackled player. The ball must not be kicked or heeled by the player marking him. The ball is in play when it has been played backwards”.
So don’t blame the refs for reverting to what the law has always been. Blame the coaches for cementing the wrong way in their best interests.
Referees in the past are also to blame for the defending players lying all over the player in possession.
The law says – “The defenders must release the tackled player immediately”.
Immediately is not three, four or five seconds late as has been the case for over 20 years,
Coaches will never be denied, but they will never die wondering.
The reasoning behind lying all over the attacking player is to stop him fudging a couple of metres before playing the ball.
Do that five times and the attacking team is ten meres closer to the tryline than they deserved to be.
But I’ve left the worst destruction of law until last – the scrum.
No longer can it possibly be called a scrum. more of a lean-to by six forwards to give seven backs more room to move.
When I first watched then covered rugby league, Ken Kearney, Ian Walsh, and Noel Kelly were hookers who actually hooked for possession.
The reason was simple, the halfback fed the ball into the tunnel.
The tunnel disappeared decades ago as the half fed the ball under the second row’s feet.
Team of the Century hooker ‘Ned’ Kelly summed it up best when I asked him to compare himself with Cameron Smith.
“No comparison, I was selected as hooker because I actually hooked, Cameron’s a great footballer, but he’s never hooked in his entire life, in fact he’s never ever even seen the football in a scrum”.
The law says – “The ball shall be put into the scrum by holding it in a horizontal position with a point in reach hand and rolling it along the ground into the tunnel formed by the opposition front row forwards”.
The tunnel went out with cravats, and knickerbockers.
So full marks to Todd Greenberg for trying to erase the major blunders of the past that were ongoing.
But he’s got his job cut out because coaches, players, and fans are so set in their wrong ways.