The NRL’s Forward Pass Round has returned stunning results for the game, with the initiative driving an immediate spike in participation rates for protractors and physics conspiracists.
Round 19 saw a suspicious level of scrutiny on forward passes, with everything out of the hands adjudged by referees to be travelling forth like the salvo of peas being expelled from their exhausted whistles.
While there has been no explanation from the NRL, speculation is rife the crackdown was ordered after the interminable debate on ruling forward passes was dwarfed by Ricky Stuart’s rolling commentary on spear tackles.
Come Sunday night, it was obvious the referees had hit their brief, with talk of video technology resurrected and Twitter transformed into a bloody battleground of duelling T-squares.
Considering it has reminded rugby league of its primary obligation, which is to torment its officials with an endless pursuit of 100 per cent accuracy in all things except sense, Forward Pass Round was an unmitigated success.
Trust me – when we look back in 12 months with the same unresolved issues, we will celebrate these botched calls.
When Round 20 begins and passes are again judged conventionally, Forward Pass Round will be remembered for maintaining our quest for a way to flawlessly adjudicate the hundreds of passes thrown each game, which should be easy when you consider the earth is flat.
So why not introduce it as an annual fixture on the NRL calendar? I’m sure it would be nurtured and enjoyed like the game’s other themed rounds, such as Heritage Round and split rounds.
It is a concept that is already bearing fruit in the upper echelons, with the NRL said to be trialling a range of costly technological options, including Hawkeye, which should finally clear up all the game’s flat passes and contentious first serves. It’s a real no-brainer.
But don’t stop there. Forward Pass Round could be even more than just a vehicle for continuing irreconcilable debate.
Why not schedule a Match of the Round where four referees battle it out for a holiday to Ringrose Park in honour of this year’s showcase clash between Parramatta and the Warriors?
For those unaware, Steve Kearney’s men were robbed of victory when a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck pass thrown from the back of his hand was deemed forward by the referee standing slightly behind the ruck in Burwood.
Many lauded this as the seminal highlight of Forward Pass Round, not for the high-stakes nature of the call but because it was the first time we’ve witnessed the Warriors let down by someone other than themselves.
Tuivasa-Sheck’s iconic Forward Pass Round forward pass also came on the back of a 9-2 penalty count against the Warriors, which everybody knew was unfair because it laughably inferred the Eels could be almost flawless.
It was an outcome that even had the perennially tortured Kearney struggling for answers, mainly from the cognitive dissonance of using terms like ‘very ordinary’, ‘frustrating’ and ‘piss off’ in reference to something other than his own team.
Warriors CEO Cameron George then protested by imploring fans to bring whistles to Friday night’s game against Canberra, obviously in retaliation to the Raiders coach for his years of funding officialdom through press conferences.
Some believe that after his side missed 29 tackles George may have been better served by calling upon Warriors fans to instead turn up with their boots to alleviate the team’s issues, but then again Mt Smart Stadium can only hold 30,000 people.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether the Warriors had reason to be aggrieved, in time none of this will matter.
That’s because history will remember them kindly as the inaugural poster boys of Forward Pass Round activism. Plus the New Zealand TAB paid out on them winning, so they’ll keep.
Bring on Forward Pass Round 2020, as soon as we finish this week’s theme, Strip Tackle Round.