Today Rob Crosby looks at the South Sydney Rabbitohs ahead of season 2017. Can they ascend the #NRL ...
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In two weeks time we will be sizing up the first weekend of the finals series.
Sadly, one issue that could not only impact on who makes the final eight, but who progresses past the first weekend remains as serious a problem as ever - the appalling standard of refereeing, and touch judges.
We saw it again over the weekend - and last night.
The issue is not that the referees are making mistakes, it is that they are making blatant mistakes - ones that really are so basic that there can be no excuse for them.
As for the touch judges, they have been almost totally irrelevant - but even when they are occasionally called on they often get it wrong!
We cannot expect perfection from the on field officials. But we can sure require consistency - and we are just not getting it.
What is especially troubling is that the two referees in each game don't apply the rules consistently. Some have a more lenient approach than others when it comes to enforcing the rules in play the ball movements.
There are even different interpretations of forward pass issues. It is obvious that some referees hesitate before calling a pass forward, others rush in...and often get it very wrong in doing so.
There is also a worrying lack of consistency in video refereeing. Some apply the benefit of the doubt rule reasonably; some simply don't apply it at all.
It is the inconsistency that is the biggest issue of all. Mistakes are a problem and they need to be addressed.
I have no doubt that Robert Finch is well intentioned - but he needs to have another really hard look at the consistency issue - consistency by referees and touch judges.
The race for the final eight, and places within the eight, remains very open. The next two weekends will see any number of really crucial matches.
It is late in the season, but is it too much to expect the NRL to require the Referees Director and his associate to focus on consistency - and drop those who lack it?