Stop hanging me out to dry, Bill!

I am aware that incorrect refereeing decisions are made every week in the NRL, AFL, Rugby Union and pretty much every other sport on earth where there are a set of rules officiated by third party officials. For years we were told as youngsters there was nothing we could do about it, and to be big boys and accept the decision and move on with our lives. In the NRL, it seems, no one was brought up with any spirit of fair play or respect for officials, and we are left in this ridiculous position of watching Bill Harrigan and his offsider (onsider?) Stuart Raper fronting up to the swarming journalists and telling them who made a wrong decision and why.

Journalistic dynamite.

None of the arguments I will make in this piece will be overly persuasive, and I put this down to the fact that everyone, and I mean all the stakeholders in football, has a different view of almost every single incident that happens in a football game. How different people’s views are depend a lot on the incident and their position in relation to the incident. NRL referees are paid to be a neutral observer in contest in which there is a lot at stake. In the NRL they are playing for sheep stations.

Like footballers, referees make mistakes in their trade. Footballers earn the ire of the supporters, predominantly the opposition’s supporters and sometimes their own whether they make mistakes or not. Referees seem to earn the ire of everyone, again whether they make mistakes or not. If one was to believe Brian Smith, his team has been hard done by by the officials every week of his 500 game coaching career. But you know what, I don’t believe Brian Smith. His players have not had to triumph in the face of officiating adversity every single time they take the park. And that fact that this man so vehemently believes this, and he is listened to and echoed by countless numbers of fans shows me that they just don’t get it.

Referees don’t have a vendetta on players, coaches or fans. They like the game they officiate and want it to be played attractively and fairly. Fairly. Fairly! They want the game to be fair! Get it? If we were to play under Brian Smith’s rules no one would watch, because the Roosters would get a penalty every ruck and no tries would ever be scored against them. Enforcing Brian Smith’s rules would be unfair.

The worst thing about all of this, though, is not that Brian Smith is listened to by fans, or that this culture is spreading throughout all clubs. No. The worst thing is that Bill Harrigan has decided to out all the referees that make mistakes, however small or large. The fact that Bill sees it fit to dignitfy this bullshit, and it is bullshit, with an “official response” (pardon the pun) is beyond ridiculous.

Not only that, but as a referee, I would hate having my boss nitpick over my performance every week in front of the entire media flock. Brian Smith doesn’t stand up at a press conference with a projector behind him and go over every mistake Mitchell Pearce made last week. Nor do the media expect him to. We shouldn’t then expect it of our referees. Leave the criticism to the critics, and have some solidarity within the organisation. I’m all for transparency, but thin skinned players and coaches don’t deserve Bill’s apologies with the way they go about things.

The only thing this achieves is making the coaches and players believe that their complaints have some validity. Yes, the referees make mistakes, but it is not for the referees boss to say whether this offside decision cost the Bulldogs the game. Leave that to Ray Warren, Phil Gould, Paul Kent, and people who comment on the Fox Sports website saying that the standard of refereeing is worse now than ever.

The coaches never stop telling the referees how they should get better. If I was Bill Harrigan and I had a press conference today, this is what I would say.

“If you, the coaches, think your team deserves to win the game then prove it. Play better than the opposition. Take the referees out of the game. When a decision is made, don’t cry about it blame it for a momentum shift. Have the self belief that you can defend your line better and score more tries than the opposition. Look to yourselves for answers. And don’t expect me to come out every week and dignify your whinging with a response. My refs cop more than you ever will.”

Do it Bill. I dare you.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sphynxxxx on June 25, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Well written…
    I was beginning to fear you had stopped posting already.


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