Why we can’t continue with ref’s fault

This article was written by Lyn Gannon, Platinum Cronulla Sharks Member and Secretary of the Cronulla Sharks Member’s Council.

This controversial issue is dominating everyone’s news feed this past weekend.

In simple terms #refsfaulting is a cop out.  It is a blight on the game and can’t continue if the game is to continue to be professional, and grow and progress.  We need the referees – without them we don’t have a sport.  Teams ultimately win or lose by virtue of their own performance, good or not so good. 

The game has developed to one of such precision and at the same time it is still a simple ball game.  Many of the rules of Rugby League however do require an opinion or interpretation to detect a breach.  Teams (yes – all teams) stretch the rules to the limit: to slow down the play the ball, to strip and not get caught, to push the pass as much as possible.  To roll the football back without touching their foot in the play the ball.  The list goes on.  It is a calculated risk playing the numbers, make no mistake.  There is so much skill in the game, but also a modicum of luck, especially in 50/50 decisions.

Historically officiating was done by one referee supported by two sideline officials.  No wireless headsets, no video review.  Yep, they got it wrong and sometimes that cost a team a win.

Then we moved to the video referee review system, sports ears communication, then two referees, and then the Bunker.  Here are a couple of things to consider:

  1. real time assessment of our fast moving game is very difficult. With the benefit of hindsight and slow motion – everyone is an expert.  I admire the fortitude and skill of the majority of our referees – it is a thankless stressful job on average wages.
  2. the Bunker is taking a lot of heat. The technology, and the need for that technology, can’t be denied.  Perhaps the policies and procedure need a review, but the need for high tech review of the game and decisions remain.  The on-site video referee system was more costly and less reliable from a technological standpoint.

So if we conclude that:

  1. solely relying on the on-field officials is not feasible; and
  2. we need video review of decisions to “get it right” a lot of the time,

then the Bunker (or something similar) will be staying with us.

Breaches will happen.  Penalties will occur.  This is unavoidable.  How fair those adjudications seem often depends on whether your team is on the receiving end of the decision or not.

I question if it is fair to interview Coaches immediately after a close and perhaps emotional game?  Are we setting them up to say what is on their minds – unfiltered?  I feel for Trent Barrett and Shane Flanagan, but I question if those press conferences are helping anyone. Seems to me that just feeds the current media frenzy and appetite for blame.

Successfully and consistently adjudicating is something the game needs to get right – no doubt.  The culture of ‘Ref’s Faulting’ after a loss however is not helping, it is dragging us back.

We have such a terrific product in Rugby League that deserves a bigger share of the sporting public’s attention for the right reasons. The referee blaming is a distraction that is damaging the brand as a whole.  Let’s celebrate what’s good about Rugby League – bring on the rest of the finals.