Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rugby League is a magnificent game. It has a great mix of stunning attack, bone shattering defence. It has skill levels displayed on a weekly basis that just take your breath away. On display every match are superstar players that everything comes easy too. There are others that may not be as talented, but what they lack in talent they make up for in sheer hard work. It is a privilege to watch those players just as much as it is to watch the superstars of the ilk of Greg Inglis.
That’s the good bit. Now for the bad part. What none of us wish to witness or listen too is the referees lecture. Once again it was on display for all to be bored to death by in today’s match between Parrematta and South Sydney. Two players sin binned that did not deserve to be.
There is as much joy to be taken from having this diatribe of the senses forced upon us as there is from being locked shut in an enclosed tank of barracudas.
Please Mr Referee, just shut up. Your lectures are the prattle of the dead. Perhaps you don’t grasp the concept of what a referee is supposed to do. You see, the idea is that because we have to have rules in this great game, you, the referee are there to enforce them. That means that if a player breaks one of those rules, you penalise him. If he knocks on, you award a scrum to the opposing team. There’s a bit more to it than that obviously, but I think you get the idea. Not hard is it?
In the case of a player repeatedly infringing, it is quite simple. Just send him to the sin bin. That is partly what it is there for. Yes, I know, this is a shocking revelation. Who would have guessed it? I mean, why send a player to the sin bin when you, the referee, can hold forth for forty seconds and lecture the offending player’s captain about the error of their ways. “Now Nathan, I need you to help me to help you to help me to help you to help me to keep the game flowing and eliminate these penalties”. Obviously not exactly what is said, but it might as well be. What they do say is just as mindless.
The problem with these lectures is that it, ironically, it inadvertently penalises the team that has been awarded the penalty. Instead of letting them get on with the game quickly, instead, all it does is give the penalised team the opportunity to set their defensive line. Which, I’m sure, they are mighty grateful to you for, too.
In today’s game, we had the absolutely preposterous situation in the second half, where Parrematta had been given a lecture about penalties, and warned that the next player in their team to be penalised would be sin binned. And sure enough, shortly after, Parrematta were penalised for stripping the ball in the tackle. Nathan Cayless was sin binned. First problem was that Cayless did not strip the ball. It was Daniel Mortimer. The second dilemma here is that Cayless, a player that had not been penalised all match, unfairly gets taken from the field for the sins of other players in his team that had been penalised previously.
Stay with me here, because it gets even better yet. Having sent one player to the sin bin because of excessive penalties, the referees backed themselves into a corner and had to even things up. So when the next penalty was awarded against South Sydney, that player was given ten minutes in the bin. He was penalised for a high tackle. Replays clearly showed that it wasn’t high. Even so it was a chance for the referees to even the playing numbers up. And this is clearly what they were doing. Going on the logic of the referees, you would assume that the next player after this to be penalised would be sin binned, too. But no, they let it stay at twelve players per side. That is the absurdity of the whole exercise. If the referees followed through on these threats in all matches, we would soon have games played whereby both teams were down to eight players each. Because, by rights, once they give the warning, each player penalised thereafter should go to the sin bin.
As one commentator pointed out during the match, these referees should be demoted for next week’s round. Quite right, too.
Having said that, referees boss Robert Finch has even more to answer for than his referees do. For it can only be assumed that as the man in charge of the referees, he is the one responsible for coming up with the idea of the lecture. And ultimately the buck stops with him. He has been in his current position for a long time now and the standard of refereeing has not improved.
While the introduction of the two referee system has been great, despite this, we still see some appalling decisions made on the field. What is even worse are some of the calls made from the video referee’s box. These guys get the opportunity to see multiple replays, and yet, still manage on occasions to come up with the wrong decision.
Usually Finch comes out and defends the indefensible. While it is commendable that he publicly backs his staff, the reality is that these people are professionals and the mistakes should not be happening, especially from the video refs.
And Finch is responsible for the performance of his staff.
It is time he accepted that his time has passed and stood down.

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