What is the best way to referee a game?
Would you rather see everything pulled up, guaranteeing nothing gets through, or more flow to the game with the occasional infringement getting by?
Would you rather have a referee miss an infringement, or call something that wasn’t there?
We have all watched “that game” where it feels more like an “umpire” sport, where we give them two teams to ref as opposed to two teams playing a game of footy. Occasionally officials seem to be looking for infringements like a police officer short on their traffic fine quota, resulting in players being rewarded with penalties for milking and others unnecessarily placed on report.
Match Officials are without doubt the most powerful people on the field. The game can quickly be taken out of the players’ hands, with one blow of the whistle. In this day and age where teams are so clinical and clubs closer than ever, momentum has never been more important. Anyone who has played football (or any sport for that matter) understands the importance of momentum within a game. Kicking into touch giving your team a rest, a 40/20, a try before half time, a repeat set, defending your goal line, keeping a team scoreless in the first half, these are all great examples of building or defusing momentum.
However arguably the most influential momentum builder or killer is a PENALTY. Pigging backing a team out of defensive territory with a penalty late in the count, providing a team an extra set in attacking territory or giving a team the opportunity to take two points securing an 8-point lead, these can decide a teams fate.
When officials over referee a game it always ends in controversy, with a team receiving one or more soft penalties awarding them momentum. This became apparent once again on Anzac day, where the Roosters went down by 2 to the Dragons. Trent Robinson’s slam on the Bunker after his side loss to the Dragons, has been well documented. For those that may have missed it, here is a link Trent Robinson slams Bunker
Although the Rooster’s coach directed most of the brunt at referee Ben Cummins, he, for the most part made some well-constructed points. Robinson went on to emphasise two ugly facts about our game.
- Diving or staying down in order to receive a penalty is becoming more prevalent
- The Bunker is becoming overinvolved in the play of the game
Players lying down for the penalty is something I have written about in several of my last posts. I feel strongly about it, and in my opinion getting up after being hit is what separates (or use to) Rugby League from almost every other sport. Nowadays more and more players are lying down after a hit, waiting for the penalty. Trent Robinson goes on to mention Jonathon Thurston taking countless hits only to rise and play on. We also seen Paul Gallen disadvantaged several weeks ago, against the Tigers when he did not fall to the ground when obstructed.
However these penalties are not just awarded because a player fails to get up, what entails is a review of the contact by “The Bunker” who then adjudicates a penalty and whether to place the contact on report.
“The bunker decided to be the on-field ref today. They jumped in at every occasion. They’re not the match review committee.”
these were just a few of Trent Robinson’s words after the Anzac Day clash.
It is now a regular occurrence for play to stop while small passages of play are reviewed and decisions made, that otherwise take the match review committee hours or days. Unfortunately it all but decided the fate of the Roosters Vs. Dragons clash on Anzac Day.
“We’re not saying we should have won today. I’m saying we should have had a chance to win today” powerful words from Trent Robinson.
The diving combined with the Bunker’s over involvement are steering our game in the wrong direction. Unfortunately our toughest players are no longer rewarded for their heroism, instead disadvantaged by it.
The majority of the calls officials miss or are not certain on, are usually minor and soon forgotten as play continues. This style of adjudication reduces stoppages, which form part of the game we are already trying to reduce.
I prefer to watch a game decided by the players, where officials merely keep the game in check and more importantly flowing.