How many amendments does the NRL need to make before it gets the dreaded obstruction rule right? Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Daniel Anderson for having the forsight to amend a potentially diabolical rule whereby a try will be disallowed if a an attacking (decoy/block) runner makes contact with the defender. That rule was always fraught with danger. You cannot construct an objective rule for a subjective situation. Robbie Farah got it right when he said that you can’t have a “black and white” rule for grey situations. That rule was always going to be exploited by defenders who take a dive in order to attract a penalty eg Greg Bird vs Panthers.
Thankfully, as of round 5, video referees will be able to “determine the significance of any contact initiated by an attacking player (who does not have the ball) in impeding a defender’s involvement in a try-scoring play.” According to NRL general manager of football operations Nathan McGuirk, “It simply provides the video referee with the discretion to rule on the significance of any contact”. Here, Here! I wrote an article titled “The Law of Common Sense” several weeks ago, after the Cooper Cronk disallowed try vs The Bulldogs in round 3. In essence, the video referee must use his discretion to determine whether the block or decoy runner has prevented the defender from having a fair opportunity to affect a tackle by the attacking runner.
There will always be grey areas. There will always be some controversy over these rulings in the future. However, if we can eliminate the ridiculous scenarios (like the Cooper Cronk situation), the game will be better off. In the 50/50 situations, I believe it is up to the attacking player to ensure he doesn’t make deliberate contact with the defender (he can do this by running through the line and/or on the inside shoulder of the defender). If it’s a bad defensive read, then it’s bad luck to the defender. As the rule suggests – if it looks like an intentional “obstruction” and it’s denied the defender a fair opportunity to prevent the try, then it’s “NO TRY”. Simple, common sense. Now, can we PLEASE stop talking about this??