Off the Wall

The standard of refereeing in the NRL continues to slide - and it is about time the game's administrators faced up to that fact and did something about it.

We face many challenges - racism allegations, players quaffing valium, a junior referee being attacked by a team official, salary cap rort issues, a judiciary process few have confidence in, and a  Sea Eagles players who must surely be out of chances.

And you can throw into the mix the continued obstruction from the QRL on the independent commission issue which today seems further away than ever.

But unless urgent action is taken to deal with the very troubling standard of refereeing in the NRL the game will have a real crisis of credibility on its hands.

I watched five games on TV over the weekend. In at least two of them poor decisions by referees, and video referees, not only stood out, they impacted on the outcome.

The first thing that needs to be done is for the NRL to dump the dual referee system. It has largely been dumped already with the senior referee taking the leading role for most of the game and on all major decisions.

We don't have 8 reliable first grade referees, let alone 16!

Secondly, the NRL needs to demand CONSISTENCY in decision making by referees, and especially video referees.

Which way the video referee will go is now an absolute raffle. Even Fox Sport's Mark Braybrook has given up - and he is a qualified referee and the son of a former referees director!

There are times when the Fox Sports commentary team, which includes former players such as Laurie Daley and Greg Alexander, agree that it is beyond doubt a decision will go one way, when the result is the opposite!

But it is not only a case of the video referee getting it wrong, and referees over-using the video referee. Yesterday the Sharks were not only denied what seemed like a fair try by referee Tony Archer - they did not even get the chance to have it assessed as he disallowed the try without even going to the video referee. And the available video evidence shows he got it wrong!

There is no consistently in video refereeing decisions. One or two of them clearly ignore the "benefit of the doubt rule" which is supposed to be given to the attacking team, and a couple are just totally unpredictable.

The new rule about the need to protect kickers has, quite predictably, led to some really poor decisions that encourage kickers to take a "dive". Surely referees, "sideline officials", and video referees can tell the difference between a deliberate late hit on a kicker and one which is simultaneous with the kick being made?

The current mob cannot. It is an absolute raffle whether a tackle or hit on a kicker is judged as fair or foul.

We cannot expect even the best referees - and we now only have two or three who fall into that category - to get it right all the time, but given the number of "officials" we now have adjudicating, surely blatant errors should by now be largely eliminated? No way!

Looking at soccer world cup matches, and the start of the Wallabies home test series, we are not alone in having officials who are simply not up to it.

But, given the importance of referees in the way our game is played, and how the rules operate, we simply have to expect much better than what was served up over the weekend.

The standard of refereeing, and the lack of consistency in video refereeing, is disappointing. What is alarming is there is evidence it is actually deteriorating.