Posts Tagged ‘Referees’

Rugby League “too subjective” for those that play

“It’s just so subjective. I don’t know how they came up with the grading. Just how things are graded…it’s so subjective, and to have that subjectivity in myopinion altered from case to case is very disparaging for the players.”

These are words from the mouth of a real, existing and currently functioning NRL coach. ‘The game I coach is too subjective,’ he says. ‘The rules are up for interpretation. Not everything is black and white.’ Perspective and subjectivity Geoff. Google it. Then google objectivity, and see for yourself whether any referee or judiciary rulings will ever be objective.

Geoff thinks Steve Matai and his banned of brothers (get it?) need to have a place in the NRL judiciary system.

It’s when you see quotations like this that you bemoan the time that you do spend sitting on the couch watching the telly as those big boys run at each other, belting each other quite spectacularly, scoring some miraculous tried and yelling at the referees like confused apes. Those nasty men in pink and the ones who review the tape, meanwhile, sit and plot to undermine everything done by the players and coaches.

I don’t think, unlike my mate Geoff, that coaches and players should have a place in the judiciary system. Everyone knows that players and coaches will try to cheat to gain advantage. If they get away with it, they call it good tactics. When they don’t, they cry like three year olds who don’t get ice cream and TV for dinner. The disingenuous behaviour that flaunts the spirit of fair competition between teams happens because players and coaches are biased, and want to win. The laws that have been implemented in Rugby League, including two referees, video refs, and judiciaries have been put there to combat illegal tactics dreamed up by Toovey and his predecessors.

So who really has the more ‘objective’ view of the game, its spirit and its laws?

Wrestling? Invented by players and coaches to undermine the other team’s progress, and many consider it to be against the spirit of the game. Play acting, telling the ref you scored when you didn’t, taking a dive; all these are inventions of players and tactics of coaches to gain unfair advantage over the opposition. These are against both the laws and the spirit of the laws.

Players are told to intentionally belt a player over the head so they won’t come back because of a concussion that may affect them for the rest of their lives. It’s against the law, yeah, but they do it anyway. This wasn’t invented by the NRL judiciary or the referees, and its their job to say ‘hang on a minute, that seems a little off to me. Let’s ban the player who did it.’ We don’t need players hanging around saying that it was a good hit, and that maybe it was a little high, so we’ll give him a warning. Some players and coaches don’t listen to warnings.

So when Geoff Toovey asks for players to have a say in the judiciary system that judges them and their actions, I say no. What will players and coaches who have shown themselves to be self interested and self serving coaches desire in a judiciary system? Probably a system that allows them to spend as little time off the field for the maximum amount of illegal damage inflicted on an opponent. Probably a system that doesn’t punish Steve Matai for being placed on report every second week for a swinging arm to the head.

I’ll probably stick with the neutral-ish arbiters currently tasked with handing out suitable punishments to players and coaches who misbehave. However subjective Toovey finds their rulings to be, I think it would be vastly preferable to the punishments (that will also inevitably be subjective) handed down by players to their colleagues.

And now to Toovey, and why he and his fellows clearly don’t get the nature of officiating and probably never will.

The structured world is still an uncertain place. Laws are put in place to indicate which behaviour is acceptable and which is not. For example, the offside rule is in place to ensure defenders don’t have an unfair advantage by being in the face of the ball carrier before he can take a step. Simple? Very.

What is not simple is the  decision to rule on an offside infringement. The referee can only have one perspective. He must make a call within the space of a couple of seconds. For this to happen he must make a decision of his own as to whether a player infringed, and by how much. The actions of the players, illegal or not, are contingent and very, very situational. No two situations are exactly alike, and the fact that the referee can only ever have one perspective, his own (even with the help of cameras and linesmen who also only have one perspective) makes it so that he will not make the inch perfect decision every time.

This makes his ruling, by definition, subjective. He cannot rule as an omiscient observer. It is beyond the limits of human capability. Just  as Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer sometimes made the wrong decision and had their pass go to the wrong player or to ground, referees sometimes do not view the world as the Lord (or Dean Ritchie or Paul Kent) does.

So please Geoff, when you say something is subjective have a look at Wikipedia first. What you said in that interview was subjective. The laws themselves are up for interpretation, so embrace the uncertainty and stop taking it out on the referees, the linesmen, your dead dog, the judiciary and the fans when you lose.

Cement.

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Why the All Blacks always win

There is little doubt in my mind that the Wallabies’ continued losses to the All Blacks are not because of a lack of will. Every year our players and our journos build our side up to be the best chance of reclaiming the Bledisloe since our dynasty over the trophy in the Rod McQueen years. Pretty much every year they let us down; or we let them down. Either way the “Orl Blecks” win.

Maybe it’s just a perception thing, and the things that I am about to say only appear to be true to Wallabies supporters as we watch the games unfold, resulting in piles of hair on the floor and a whole lot of vacuuming to do later. It could just be that the things the All Blacks do are due to them just being better than us, but I really doubt it. What I’m attempting to do is make a list of the things we notice in the game that the All Blacks do that the Wallabies don’t, or the things the Wallabies do that the All Blacks don’t, that give those boys from across the ditch the seemingly insurmountable and inevitable edge over the other team wearing poncy yellow. Maybe I just found our first problem.

The first one is really obvious to anyone who watched the game from tonight. The All Blacks relish being shitheads.

Remember the stick Quade Cooper copped from the New Zealand media after he pushed their poor defenceless captain Ritchie McCaw around a little. He gave him a nudge, maybe a stray knee, and had to endure weeks of torment from those black-eyed peanut journalists. Yet, we see Keiran Reid and Liam Messam take David Pocock out of the game all night (see: 0 pilfers on Pocock’s stat sheet) and it is barely acknowledged, and if it is it is seen as cunning strategy.

The truth is Quade actually stumbled upon a little secret the AB’s have been harbouring all these years that the Wallabies never caught up with. They love being dickheads to the other team. Did you see Ritchie take out Rob Horne to open up a massive gap for by Israel Dagg? Is that the same Ritchie who was being bullied by that big fat meanie, that nasty man in yellow, Quade Cooper? Is that the same Ritchie who loves being on the ground between the ballcarrier and the halfback every ruck he gets to, and the same Ritchie who himself loves bullying little Aussie backs whether he has the ball or not?

Quade needs to keep that mongrel, and teach it to the 15 who took the field tonight. Only then will the Wallabies actually be intimidating to play against.

The best example of this has to be the oft-criticised Bakkies Botha. The media complained endlessly about him being a cheat and a terrible person yada yada yada; but did Bakkies ever change his game once in response? Not the eye-gouging, face-mashing, off-the-ball-taking Bakkies I watched. And the Springboks thought he was a legend. Yet we chastise Quade because he has the guts to stick it to the bloke who loves sticking it to us. It needs to change.

Secondly we need forwards who can actually pass!

Think back to the number of overlaps the Wallabies had today but could not take advantage of because a big guy with number 1 through 8 plastered on his back doesn’t possess the first skill taught to everyone who has picked up an oval shaped inflatable object. Numbers 4 and 5 being the worst offenders. And while we’re there, our number 10 looked like he couldn’t pass today either.

Contrast this to the pride of the Commonwealth of New Zealand, whose second rowers by my count offloaded three times to put outside men (also often forwards) into space that meant linebreaks, metreage and quick ball. In Wallaby land, meanwhile, the ball is being suckled by a nurturing forward who is scared it will cry, until Genia stops worrying about how his sure-thing multi on the dishlickers at Wenty is going and decides pick it up. More passing drills are not the answer. A willingness to use one’s skill is.

Finally, break the rules.

The frustration and glory of rugby is, was, and always will be the interpretations offered by the men in the middle. It is a game where the audience, players, and referees embrace and respect the grey areas, not demand that the referees call them by their full name and tell them why they can’t take a piss into their whistle. Subtlety.

When 5 forwards in black are suddenly all fall to the ground on the gold side of the breakdown it’s probably not due to peer pressure. They know that referees, despite the protestations of the crowd, are not going to penalise them every time. It’s also obvious that in those messy rucks the ball does not magically go from being on the Wallabies side to the All Blacks side. There are a bunch of dudes in black who are rather adept at subterfuge, and are masters of using their hands and all that dastardly, All Black business. They understand they won’t always get away with it, but when they do it quickly turns to genius. We need to make this part of Wallaby business.

Turnover ball is dangerous. The Blecks understand this. The Wallabies, with their thirty second waiting time so Benn Robinson can do his shoelace before taking a hit up, probably do as well. They just don’t cheat hard enough to capitalise on it.

So please, please, for the sanity of the fans and probably the All Blacks, who must be sick of winning by now, cheat your heart out, use the skills you spend so long training and ruck some skulls, rub some faces behind the referees back, and do some other nefarious business (non-Hopoate related) that will make those fellas in black think twice about getting their head down the bottom of a pile of bodies again.

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.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair