With the dust settled on Week 1 of the NRL Finals, the referees again dominated the headlines after some mind blowing calls in several games from the weekend.
On Friday night, referee Tony Archer hadn’t done too much wrong in the Warriors v Eels match. Any interpretations were very consistent and the form referee wasn’t swayed by a large and vocal crowd. Just when he thought he was home and hosed, referee Archer has Bill Harrigan swooping down from the heavens like a thunderbolt; to come up with a mind boggling penalty try call in the final 2 minutes.
It’s widely known that Bill Harrigan has a strong personality and will make calls for his own reasons and not take the situation on face value. ‘Hollywood’ Harrigan always likes to make his presence felt. Unfortunately for the Eels it nearly cost them a finals match. Many of the Eels players fearing it was actually an 8 point try and a possible golden point outcome. Once again considering the decision was made using ‘video technology’ it should rarely if ever be wrong. 98.9% of people in the Rugby League world knew that the illegal tackle was a penalty and maybe a 10 minute sin-binning of Eel Chad Robinson at best. I don’t know what is worse, the shocking call by Bill Harrigan or the support from referee’s boss Robert Finch – backing ‘Hollywood’ Harrigan to take control of the box during the Grand Final.
When we thought the decisions from the man in the sky must only get better; along comes another whopper in the Manly v Souths match at Brookvale. Spectators treated to a gripping contest; the style and skill of Manly against the defence and grit of South Sydney – a real traditional battle. With Manly only just ahead of outsiders Souths with 20 minutes to go – a jaw dropping video referee call changes the whole course of the match. This time former referee Tim Mander was in control of the universe – the video referee box and made the blunder that seemed impossible to make.
Once again, 98.9% of the Rugby League population could see the collision between Manly’s Matt Orford and Souths’ Ben Rogers was pure un-avoidable contact. While Orford looked to be seriously injured and not playing for the penalty; he didn’t make any attempt to avoid Ben Rogers and the Souths man had his back turned, not even veering off his original path. It was a classic ‘no call’ and play on. On field ref Shane Hayne was seemingly having a fair game himself, keeping things tidy and not favouring the home team. Then boom! The man will all the hindsight in the world – the video referee; makes a horror call and the game changes totally.
The NRL and the referees bosses can sugar coat, avoid or fine all those that talk about their problems – but the issue is not going away. The public do realise that ‘on-field’ referee’s are human and will make mistakes occasionally. However;
What the public won’t cop is wrong decisions by video officials with the benefit of video evidence and technology to view the incident from multiple angles and in slow motion if required. Whether the problem is an aging video referee with eye-sight or technology comprehension problems, or a video referee with an ego problem – sort the problem out before it costs anymore teams their season.