NRL usage of Video Referees in 2008 is it hurting or helping the Rugby League game?By HateQld

The game of NRL Rugby League goes through constant rule changes, its probably a big plus for our game. It’s constantly evolving and keeps us ahead of other sports.

The NRL administrators have tried to make the game more attractive in recent times by bringing the video referee into several elements of the game, however this has had no effect on bringing more people through the turnstiles at the Rugby League grounds. The NRL needs to measure the benefit of rules changes they have implemented to ensure they are certainly helping, not hindering the game.

Just look at soccer. It’s the world game and the most powerful sport in the world – played in every country on the planet. The round ball game draws big crowds in most countries. It’s very successful and the administrators have not changed the rules of the game for a very ,very  long
time. They have a solid product that works and naturally they are sticking with it. At one stage, they were considering a rule change,which would have seen more goalscored. They actually wanted to widen the goalposts . But do you think more points in any given port makes that game more attractive ?

Bigger scoreline margins can also have the opposite affect and ruin a sport , whether it be NRL, soccer, Rugby Union – certainly higher scores or margins don’t really mean a better game. Would a score line of 42 – 20 be more apparelling then a score line of 14 – 7?

In the past the tight contests have attracted more crowds to the NRL game. A close game puts the fans on the edge of their seats and with time ticking away, there is nothing better than a heartstopping comeback or a 1 point victory. The golden point rule initiative has been a great step forward for the NRL, while some have complained about the field goal shootout – it adds a new dimension to the game and someone gets to leave the ground a winner.

The NRL administrators however have changed so many other rules and added video exploration to so many areas, it has become hard to keep up with whats ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with the game , it’s caused confusion amongst fans, commentators and coaches alike . There is a difference of opinion in the commentary box as opposed to the  referees decision. The referees and the touch juges are not coming up with decisions on their own, they are relying far to much on the video referee man to get involved for tries, strips, high contact, loose carries, foul play and more. Sure, the amount that needs to be managed on the NRL field is extensive; and the referee has an extremely hard job – the video does have some place in the game.

But is the constant start stop a good thing? What about the try situation? Something needs to change there, each week there is a new controversy. Simply no consistency. Just look at recent weeks; the Bunnies get 2 tries that many felt were knock-on’s. Canberra denied what should have been a try. Manly are pulled back for a forward pass, that was actually fine. The Eels score off a bomb and despite no video evidence, the ref’s call doesn’t factor in benefit of the doubt. The video referee decision is quite simply; a lottery. Commentators, supporters, players and officials have no idea what result will be returned.

While it’s a hard game to adjudicate – other sports are laughing at the state of the video referee. It’s gobsmacking and whats even more scary is the element it leaves open for points shaving and match fixing. When a result can be swung either way in terms of a try, without any form of review or retribution – the power it gives that official is way too great. It really does open pandoras box and provides a scary thought for the future.

The game of NRL has increasingly got like NFL, which isn’t the end of the world. Stoppages can be painful sure, but if we are going to video manage a game – lets be totally clear and consistent on the calls. The rule book doesn’t always allow for this; it needs to be tightened up.

There is a big element of supporters who are frustrated with the time wasting and stoppages in the current game. Too slow, too boring which makes it more suited to a TV package rather than a live event at the stadium. The removal of referee and touch judge decisions does swing the game more to a TV package and hence the reduced crowd numbers.

Ultimately; there are to many grey areas in the NRL game today.

  • Benefit of the doubt to the attacking team. (This rarely happens, or is rarely given) (This rule should replace ‘Refs Call’)
  • Stripping rule. (Too 50/50, knocked back? knocked forward? during a tackle?)
  • Control / Downward pressure when scoring. (Is a finger on the ball downward pressure / control? Knock-on’s?)
  • The Ruck (Dominant, Surrender, Knees, Hands on the ball)
  • Diving/Milking (This is becoming rife, players laying down regularly or faking for referee intervention)

A balled is passed, is it forward or backwards? The rule states that the ball must be passed backwards. Now they say “Oh its it leaves the hands and it goes forward , thats OK due to the hand pointing backwards as it was passed”.

What a load of rubbish that is.

The list goes on, with so many views and interpretation of the rule no wonder we all confused, angry and disappointed.

Keep the rules simple, allow the referees and touch judges to make a decision on their own. Reduce the usage of the video referees; sadly the video referee should not be making any mistakes as they have the benefit of slow motion video. However, they make the most mistakes of NRL officials during a game. (On top of that, they usually take way too long to adjudicate – it’s extremely frustrating.)

Give the men in the middle some more control in several areas of the game , if they make a mistake , so be it , do not continually show the replays at the grounds on the TV to crucify the men in the middle. Simplify the game and make it easy for the officials and everyone  else to follow.

By ricky

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