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The Roar


Time to bring back the bin

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27th May, 2019

NRL referees are so fearful of sending a player to the sin-bin or even blowing penalties.

The historical and ongoing illogical perception that the refs have a major impact on the flow of the game and its outcomes are to blame for this development. This is wrong and quite frankly dumb.

Commentators and other high-profile individuals have unfairly pointed the finger at the referees for apparently influencing and spoiling the game.

Last year referees were allowed to penalise infringements without regard for the flow of the game. Many commentators were frustrated with the new approach.

Phil Gould took to Twitter in an obvious satirical rant, “Really enjoyed Friday Night Refereeing tonight. Every now and then the football threatened to get in the way, but to their credit, the refs were having none of that. They kept the whistle blowing. Referee coaches should feel proud of their team. Well done to all concerned”.
– Phil Gould (atPhilGould15) June 8, 2018

As a result, this year the NRL has directed referees to let the game flow. Ironically now they are looking at ways to curb the increased penalty count within the red-zone as a result of players deliberately giving away penalties that slow the game.

What is the common denominator between last and the current season?

The players! It was their fault last year when the games didn’t flow and that is the case this year for increased penalties in the red zone.

The players are the ones committing the infractions to the detriment of the opposition and the game. The referees applying the rules and duly penalising are not responsible for the penalties and their consequences.


That’s like blaming the line judges in tennis for the lack of rallies because they keep calling the ball out when it’s out.

The usual rugby league logic needs to change. If there is a high penalty count, then look at the players, not the refs. If a player gets sin-binned, don’t blame the ref for ruining the spectacle but the player who committed the offense.

Referee Gerard Sutton gives Dylan Napa of the Roosters ten minutes in the sin bin.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Furthermore, the stupid attribution of criticism towards referees that’s led to the hesitancy to use the sin-bin will paradoxically influence the results of games. It has already, how many times this year have fans been outraged by the victorious team cynically and repeatedly slowing the game as the opposition looked threatening.

The latest measure proposed by Todd Greenberg is to give a player a time-out for the following set of six who gives away a penalty in the red zone. Will it occur from the first penalty or after a certain number of penalties and will it ensue every time thereafter? Just use the bin after a few penalties and see how quickly player behaviour changes.

A case that is worthy of note, was the weekends Jared Warea-Hargreaves’ hit on Kalyn Ponga. A textbook example of where a player should be sent to the sin-bin as it was late and deliberate.

The hit occurred in the 58th minute of the match, with the result a foregone conclusion with the score, 30-6 in favour of Newcastle. Ponga took no further part in the match due to an obvious concussion.

Bizarrely a penalty wasn’t even given. I can only assume the refs thought Hargreaves was committed. It was the wrong call.


But let’s for a moment assume the same incident occurs in the 28th minute and was correctly penalised. The scores are tied and Ponga takes no further part in the game and Hargreaves receives no further sanction. The Knights lose to the Roosters without their most potent attacking weapon.

K Ponga watches on

Kalyn Ponga of the Knights watches on (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

Suddenly the whole narrative of the game as influenced by the incident. All of a sudden, the discussion is about whether Hargreaves should have at least received ten in the bin or a send-off based on its deliberate nature and the injury incurred. The consequences of the late tackle obviously having an effect on the outcome of the match.

This is hardly an unreasonable scenario. In fact, why wouldn’t a player commit foul play in say a grand final knowing that could sway the game in their favour (Terry Lamb 88’ GF anybody)?

The game is being unduly influenced by smart coaching and players deliberately crossing the line knowing that in many cases it’s actually beneficial to give away a penalty and highly unlikely they will get binned. Referees need the mandate to ensure to the best of their authority the fair result of matches, without the fear of reprisal.

Bring back the biff – no no I mean the bin!