Off the Wall


The truly troubling aspect of the appalling display by the officials in yesterdays Roosters v Broncos game is that, until very recently, one of them was clearly rated by Bill Harrigan and his sidekick, Stuart Raper, as the "number one" referee in the NRL!

The dream run given to Matt Cecchin began during the 2011 season, culminating in his grand final appointment (alongside Tony Archer) and then his appointment as the Australian referee in the tri nations final in England at the end of the season.

And this year he was given the first State of Origin match (alongside Ben Cummins).
He was dumped for the second game this Wednesday night.

And on the basis of yesterday's performance he will likely get his second "dumping" in a week!

But it would be wrong to focus on Matt Ceechin alone - or the other referee Adam Devcich - as the cause of yesterday's debacle.

All yesterday confirmed - and the refereeing in the first Origin match confirmed - is that one of the greatest challenges facing the ARLC - is the simple and irrefutable reality that the standard of refereeing in the NRL is just got good enough.

It is not good enough to provide eight referees who can turn in consistent and competent performances, let alone sixteen!

And that is the nub of the issue - the overall standard of referees in the NRL is arguably worse than it has ever been.

The ARLC needs to appreciate just how serious the issue is - it is in truth one of the greatest challenges the game faces today.

And it needs to act - and not rely on Bill Harrigan's spin that referees are doing well, the standard has never bee higher and so on.

The first thing it needs to do is to tell Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper that, from today onwards, their role is to coach and train the referees - and recruit new referees.

Their role as the sole selectors of referees for NRL matches, and effectively for representative games, needs to end.

In the "good old days" the referees for the NSWRL premiership, and the BRL premiership, were chosen by a independent "referees appointment board".

The panel might comprise a former referee, a former player, and an independent chairman.

There are too many potential conflicts of interest when Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper train and coach the referees and then decide which games they will officiate in - and when they are dropped.

The ARLC needs a clean slate - and it needs to separate the role of the referees coaches from that of choosing the referees for the NRL fixtures, and Origin etc.

And there is something else the ARLC needs to do, and do comprehensively.

It needs to review the "dual referee" system.

And it needs to review it taking into account the reality that for now, and for some years to come, we don't and won't have enough consistent and competent referees to provide two for each match each weekend.

If that happens, then in 2013 we will revert to the one referee system that frankly was working effectively when it was dumped.

It is about time the whole issue of refereeing standards went to the top of the agenda - and was addressed comprehensively.

Until that happens, the week in week out sage we have to endure will just continue - and may even get worse.

If that is possible?