Tony Archer / Bill Harrigan Photo: Getty Images
This past week the NRL referees have come under fire and been heavenly criticised.
But whose fault is it? Who is accountable for the poor performance of referees, the bunker and the state of the game on the field?
It has come to a head this week with the farcical decision to not send off Canberra Raiders star, Sia Soliola, for his sickening late high tackle on Melbourne’s Billy Slater and Ricky Stuart blowing up about the referees and their performance.
The majority of supporters and experts in the game agree Soliola should have been sent off. There has not been a more united decision in the game no matter who you support since the 1999 penalty try decision in the Grand Final. It had to be done. So the question is who made the decision not to send him off? Who is accountable?
But that’s another issue for another day. Let’s stick to the state of the game and accountability.
Bernard Sutton Photo: Getty Images
We now know it was not the fault of referee, Matt Cechin. He was going to send him off. Bernie Sutton, the head video referee in the bunker overruled Cechin and told him to place Soliola on report.
So what happened next? Tony Archer, Referee’s boss comes out publicly with a comment, which is prejudicial to any potential charge or judiciary hearing with the statement “he should have been sent off.”
Tony has been around long enough to know this type of comment is contrary to NRL policy. A monumental mistake.
So we now see who is accountable for the ‘no send off‘ decision with Bernie Sutton being demoted to video ref reviewer. Let me put the bunker and this demotion into context for you.
There are three men working in the bunker. Two are video reviewers marking aspects of the game as it’s played. E.g. when a kick is made they mark it, so if they need to go back to it, they touch the marker and the footage is ready to go. Then there’s the head reviewer of the three. In this case, Bernie Sutton. All three are all involved in any decision but the head reviewer has the ultimate decision.
Do not be naïve enough to think Bernie will not have a major input into the decisions being made this week, regardless of his ‘on paper’ demotion.
I raise the sacking of video referee, Jared Maxwell several weeks ago when he wrongly awarded a try to Manly in the Knights game at Brookvale Oval [Lottoland]. Jared wasn’t demoted, he was sacked for two weeks. He was accountable and wore the consequences. So what about consistency?
Tony Archer continues to exercise accountability and takes it out on assistant referee, Chris Butler. Archer says he was the assist referee at the time of the tackle and is responsible for back play. Wake up Tony, Chris has nothing to answer for here. The on-field referees were sending Soliola off. The blame squarely lies with Bernie Sutton and your policy that the head video referee has the ultimate say.
So poor old Chris becomes collateral damage of your weak attempt to provide accountability.
Well let’s move onto the current state of the game on the field and who is accountable.
The ‘Play The Ball’ has deteriorated into a joke. Less than 50% of PTB’s have a foot touch the ball or even go through the motion. Players play the ball facing side ways, they move off the mark and not to mention the amount of markers pushing the ball carrier over after he has played the ball. All go unpunished.
Player’s offside at kick offs and line dropouts.
Line dropouts are kicked in the field of play not behind the line.
Penalties are taken sometimes 3 metres in front of the mark.
Scrums are no longer bound. Back rowers stand resting their hands on the player in front of them watching the halfback. We know scrums will never go back to being a contest but surely we can make them look like a scrum.
Blockers on kick chasers. When did this become legal?
Players walk out ten metres from the try line as a conversion is kicked. The rule says they remain behind the line until the conversion is kicked.
Then we had the rhetoric at the beginning of the season. If a team continually gives penalties away close to the try line players will be sin binned. Anyone see that happening?
I could go on and on and some may say these are small things in the big picture. No they are not. They are the foundations of the game of rugby league. They are the easy things which can be policed and build the rest of the game on.
Oh, I should mention the lack of authority out on the field as well. The way the referee’s are spoken to and continually questioned is a disgrace. A number of players should have splinters in their backside from sitting in the sin bin for ten minutes. It would fix this problem pretty quick.
All the above can be fixed quickly. It just needs leadership.
So who is accountable for the current state of the game on the field?
The coaches can take some responsibility but they will always push the barrow with what ever they can get away with. So will a player.
It’s not the referee’s because they are only doing what they are told. If someone goes in and tells the referee’s to fix all I have mentioned they will. I’ve seen it happen. If they don’t you promote someone who will.
All of this has happened under the watch of Tony Archer.
He is responsible along with his off sider Russell Smith.
They have allowed the rules of the game to be interpreted instead of policed. The game is not all black & white. There are grey areas. But the basics need to be refereed.
Tony Archer is accountable for the current state of the game on the field.
The referee’s are not are happy bunch and moral is at an all time low. A change is needed and now.
I am passionate about this game. I have been involved in rugby league for 51 years and in some stages made a living out of the game.
I am very passionate about referees. It pains me to see referees under attack. I’m known to politely chastise supporters at local games if they yell at young referees. I love refereeing and all it has to offer and I want to see it thrive.
So I speak out along with thousands of supporters who are shaking their heads and many turning away from the game.
I only hope the NRL will act.
It is time for Tony Archer to resign and show some dignity and move on.
If he doesn’t and I expect as much, the NRL needs to move him on for the sake of the game.
They will find a better replacement and for the record, I’m not interested.