NRL Grand Final Week, 2007
Video Referee: It’s a Lottery

Video footage never lies. Right?

Well it never lies when used in criminal evidence, home movies or feature films – but somehow, when used in NRL Rugby League the tale of the video tape can sometimes tell white lies. Why is this so, how can a video lie? Well, if you find someone that knows the answer – give their details to the NRL; because they need this super sleuth to sort out inconsistencies with current video referee’s. We are only days away from a Grand Final, and yet there are still video referee concerns – how often when your team scores a near certain try do you suddenly get nervous and fear a howler call from the video referee? This should never be the case; using video evidence the result should always be black and white.

In the two NRL Grand Final Qualifiers over the weekend, their were several occasions when the on-field referee’s sent the decision upstairs to be judged by video assisted referees. In two particular cases; the Channel 9 commentary team actually stated – “This is a try; but the video referee won’t allow this.” – We hear this kind of comment, probably so often now we discard it. But think about it some more; how bad are the rules and video process when we rarely know if a try will or will not be awarded?

How can this be so? Take the Manly / Cowboys game firstly; there were several obstruction calls and in the opinion of the referee’s made the correct call in all cases. There was a Manly no-try that was border-line, however Justin Smith of the Cowboys did get hit by Anthony Watmough and at no stage was Smith trying to tackle the Manly dummy runner – he was interfered with an the decision was correctly sent down “No Try”.

Regardless, we need to have the rules and decisions much more clear cut. Several commentators stated during the Manly/Cowboys game, that the try decision could go either way and they would be happy with either decision. That kind of situation simply does not reflect a professional sport. Sporting organisations in the USA and around the world would be laughing at us if they could see the state of the video refereeing rules in our game of Rugby League.

The decision on Sunday during the Storm / Eels clash in Melbourne probably left the most question marks over the video referee. While a try was correctly disallowed to Eel Kris Inu mid-way through the second half, when Inu crossed for a second time soon after – the video evidence was totally inconclusive. The footage could not prove either way if a try had been scored. The rules state that in a situation such as this; the benefit of the doubt must be awarded to the attacking team. For some reason this rule was not enforced and once again the viewing public and spectators were amazed.

It seems in some instances the rules of engagement might be the problem and certainly need review and alteration by the NRL; improving the this area would allow the video referee’s to follow a much clearer process and remove the need for their personal judgement.

However at other times, it seems the video referee is making the wrong call and refusing to follow the limited existing guidelines set out for them in the rules. Is it nerves? Does the pressure get too much in the video box? Why is there not more official scrutiny on these decisions that sometimes seem mind boggling? In this day and age of wagering on Rugby League – it’s even more reason to get things absolutely black and white. The only person needing to employ personal judgement during an NRL game is the on-field referee.

We need to take away personal opinions from all video decisions; because as they say – “Video’s Don’t Lie” and the result should be pure process driven formality.

** The team would like to pass on their condolences to the family and friends of legendary League caller Frank Hyde who passed away at the age of 91 yesterday. The former Rugby League player and commentator for 2SM for many years had a huge influence over Rugby League fans and will be remember by many for his classic catch cries such as “‘it’s long enough, it’s high enough …’.”

By ricky

One thought on “Video Referee Lottery”
  1. I have just perused this article and to say the least – provides on most portions a very accurate portrayal of how easy the decision for the video referee SHOULD BE. However, despite the provision for a frame by frame examination from multiple cameras – there will always be situations where defending players will make a rigorous attempt to defend their line and will block the view of the camera and the reason why we get an inconclusive review by the Video Referee – hence ‘Refs Call’. Unfortunately in American Football (Gridiron)the attacking players only have to pass the line – not ground the ball which minimises difficulties in ruling a touch down. With regards to the Parramatta winger having 2 x tries ruled against him in the Eels Vs Storm match – The 1st try was correctly ruled. The second try appeared a little inconclusive – but I watched it frame by frame and I thought he grounded the ball at the same time that his boot touched the line – which is OUT. Its the same as a player catching the ball with one foot on the touch line and the other foot in the field of play. Similtaneously as the player catches the ball – it is ruled out. I don’t necessary agree with this ruling as the ball on some occasions could have bounced in the field of play.

    I think there is two much decision making by the Video Referee.
    However, there are outside influences on the game these days that has made video refereeing so essential. Had both of the Parramatta tries been awarded – this could have had a dramatic affect on the outcome of the game.

    Furthermore, there would have been a change from a 13+ result back to a 1-12 result which could have affected the punters. Betting is one of those huge outside influences.

    My final point:- Is there a possibility that perhaps you could confer with the NRL Referee association and see what there actual interpretation of – “TRY – Benefit of the Doubt” really does mean.

    My thought is that there is a possible advantage to an attacking side when an inconclusive passage of play occurs resulting in a potential try being scored.


    Perhaps you might seek further clarification from the experts – in League – NRL CEO, Mr. Ray Haddley and the Continuous Call team, Mr. Phil Gould or perhaps Ray Warren or Warren Ryan.

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