Referees are only trying to stop coaches from molesting the game we love

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Remember the early 1990's when Channel Nine first won the rights to call the NSWRL? A simpler time. No social media, too. Warren, Sterling, ‘Fatty' and ‘Blocker'. Four peas in a pod. 

Back then, coaches had a pretty straight forward game plan. Run hard, tackle hard and score plenty of points. They didn't overcomplicate the game. That made life pretty easy for commentators. The new Nine team took to it like a duck to water. They seemed to have so much fun. Their job was to describe and analyse what was in front of them. They had a few laughs along the way.

Last night however all we heard was agenda - from an Immortal no less. Referee bashing is the new black. The easiest bandwagon a rugby league expert can jump on. On Nine it was Andrew ‘Joey' Johns. Phil Gould and Peter Sterling have thrown plenty of jabs too. Gould even offered to take charge of the referee's department the other day. Over on Fox Sports, it was Braith Anasta.

Apparently it is the referee's fault that coaches are instructing their players to give away intentional penalties when the opposition is attacking. It's also the referee's fault clubs would prefer give away penalties when their side is struggling to get their defensive structures set in "transition" (when a side kicks down field and are stretched thin). They'd rather be penalised, re-set and give up twenty metres on the kick-for-touch than let in a try, right?

This is the coaches.

Not the referees.

Funnier still, we were warned about the stricter interpretations of the rules LAST YEAR.

"I stress this is not a recent thing. The NRL's competition committee with some of the most respected names in the game decided on this course back in November last year," Head of Football Brian Canavan told NRL.com in March.

"Since then we've had referees visit every club in the pre-season to officiate scrimmage sessions.

"That invitation is open to all 16 NRL clubs throughout the regular season as well. Referees will come to training and work with players and coaches."

Sneaky coaches say they're working with the officials. They're not. They continue to instruct their players to flaunt the rules because they think the crackdown will cease - that the referees will give up. It must also be nice to have certain sections of the media continuously harpooning the game and hammering the men in yellow.

Oh, then there's the complaint that because of the referees, nobody gets tired anymore.

It is true. Players aren't fatigued enough. Perhaps that's more to do with the fact that they're now professional athletes and train every single day. Maybe it's because the number of interchanges per game is too high. Don't drop the interchanges from 8 to 6. Drop it to 4.

The reason coaches tell their players to commit illegal play is to give them as many breathers as possible. Why not give away 20 penalties a game? You're sure as hell going to have more petrol left in the motor later in the game than a team that is consistently defending. Who would you have your money on with a few minutes to play? The side making poor decisions under fatigue or the side that has been standing around getting their wind back all day long?

This tactic has far worse implications for the game than when the Melbourne Storm brought in a wrestling coach.

Cut down the amount of players sitting on the reserves bench while we're at it. We don't need four fresh players. In recent weeks, big props Andrew Fifita and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have both played 80 minute games. If a 120 kilogram front rower can play 80 minutes, why are we subbing wide-running second rowers and backs in and out of the game?

There's some fatigue for you, ladies and gentlemen.

The moral to the story is this: The officials will not stop.

Don't blame referees for trying to take the game back out of the hands of those that want to molest it.


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NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of LeagueUnlimited.com.