Given the pending departure of Wills and Kate from our shores, it got me wondering whether we, as a sporting nation, have inherited a somewhat dubious trait commonly associated with our beloved ancestors – “The Whinging Poms”. Is the state of the game of rugby league really as bad as most pundits would have you believe, or have we just turned into a total bunch of whingers?
Yes, I get it. Crowd numbers are down. TV ratings are stagnant and the club membership drive has yielded a modest return. But surely to goodness, we can’t attribute every problem to controversial refereeing decisions? Judging by some of the media reaction, you would think referees were also responsible for the disappearance of MH370.
St George fans – PLEASE MOVE ON! (and that’s putting it mildly). The referee got it wrong by 0.60 seconds! I understand. It hurts. Soooo close, but no cigar. We’ve all been there. Have your say, then move on. Melbourne scored after the full time siren and, in the process, wedged a dagger through the heart of every Saints fan. Call it Karma but the following week, Melbourne copped their own dose of retribution when their winger Sisa Waqa was disallowed, what appeared to be, a fair try. That cost them the game. Manly’s Keiran Foran scored a try against the Cowboys which should never have been awarded. The video referee, Paul Mellor, has since been sacked. It doesn’t help the Cowboys, but Manly may be on the receiving end this week. Souths blew up about a possible obstruction to John Sutton before Bulldogs winger Corey Thompson score the match winning try. Did Souths fans blow up about Corey Thompson’s disallowed try early in the game, which most people thought was a fair try? Swings and roundabouts. Refereeing errors. We’ve had them since 1908! With increased scrutiny and constant rule changes, I can tell you, it ain’t about to change anytime soon.
I am, by no means, denying fans their God-given right to complain about refereeing decisions or, indeed, the state of the game. Hec, I can whinge with the best of them! However, we are drawing a long bow if we’re attributing the NRL problems to poor refereeing decisions. I admit, it is frustrating sometimes. In particular, that dreaded “obstruction rule”. For the sake of the exercise, let me offer one solution: If the ball carrier runs around a decoy, irrespective of whether the defence was impeded, the attacking team should be penalised for obstruction. That’s one grey area out of the way. The other grey area is the “Kieran Foran” incident where the decoy runner impedes the defender. Whereas the Eagles were awarded a try for obstruction, Parramatta were denied a try for a similar situation when Luke Brooks was felled. It’s simple: the onus is on the attacking player to avoid contact, either by stopping short of the line or running through the line without touching a defender. The solution to poor decisions is certainly not in Todd Greenberg’s “bunker” suggestion. It’s all to do with making it easier for referees to interpret the rules. The referees have over a hundred decisions to consider per game. Let’s make the rules less convoluted and a little clearer.
In my opinion, the game has never been more exciting. This is the closest competition in history. Every team is in the mix. The crowds have been down but just watch them turn out in force this weekend. Apparently, over 50,000 tickets have been pre sold at Suncorp stadium for the Broncos v Rabbitohs match. The ANZAC game between the Roosters and Dragons will no doubt attract over 40,000 and the Melbourne v Warriors should attract over 30,000. Not bad for a game in crisis. Sure, the game is not perfect. Some quite rightly argue it is too sanitised (more about that in another article). That’s our game. It thrives on controversy and headlines. Why don’t we all take a leaf out of John Lennon and just Let It Be? I’m sick and tired of the Glass-Half-Empty protagonists and the doomsayers who are too caught up in their own self fulfilling prophecies. To those people, it’s simple. Go and watch Rugby or AFL or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. I’m more than happy with our less than perfect game.