When is a rule, not a rule?

Here we are just three rounds from Finals Football and the Chief Executive of the NRL David Gallop has openly castigated his Referee?s boss Robert Finch and former top referee Bill Harrigan for not knowing the rules. From memory one of Gallop?s key pleas to the clubs and fans when he took over from David Moffat towards the end of 2001 (and officially for 2002) was to unify the differing factions within the Rugby League community. Yet here he is openly calling out his Referee?s boss and one of the most accomplished referees of all time. An article on Foxsports.com.au by James Hooper (http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,20140188-23214,00.html), quotes David Gallop with the following attack on Finch and Harrigan for their publicised views on a non-call on the allegedly off-side Canberra in their game against the Wests Tigers on Sunday.

? "On the face of it that appears to be clearly wrong and that's why I'll be calling for an explanation from Finch and (Bill) Harrigan." ? "That's what the rules are for. And I don't subscribe to any view that you can go ignoring the rules." No matter which way you slice those two statements, Gallop is saying he knows the way the rule works and two men who are and have been heavily involved in the on-field action (even in an administration capacity) have got it wrong. But have they? The rule in question relates to where the defending player must be when then ball is clearing the ruck. The rule says the defending player must have both feet behind the line when a play the ball is within 10m of the tryline but honestly if anyone has any footage of all 13 defending players (excluding the 2 markers if you want to be picky) standing with both feet behind the line at ANY time ? let alone when the ball clears the ruck, then please bring it forth. In fact can Mr Gallop produce this evidence? It is a million to one shot and bookies around the country would happily take bets of any amount against this footage being found. So it is fair to say that in this case the written rule is not actually the practical rule that has been interpreted for the past 100 years. Robert Finch has defended his stance and has set out a very strong case that the Canberra-Tigers referee Stephen Clark did not err for not penalising Todd Carney when leaving the defensive line early to pressure Scott Prince?s field goal attempt. He has amongst other things used the word ?interpretation? to clarify the fact that rules are enforced with that crucial factor in mind.

Finch said in the same article by Hooper:

? "What people have got to understand is that referees must use discretion in the game, otherwise the game just stops." ? "It's an interpretation and the referee makes a judgement on it." ? "Once again people look at things black and white. This game is not black and white - it's grey all the time. We've been as honest as we possibly can." He is 100% correct with every statement and why the NRL?s CEO has called him out on a rule that has never been adhered to in century of Rugby League is astonishing. Of course Gallop isn?t completely na?ve and (well hopefully not) just making this judgement for the sake of sounding right, he is doing it to show that the NRL won?t be entirely silent (even if the NRL is impotent when it comes to reversing on-field ?controversy?) on refereeing decisions that impact the ability of teams to win key games. And again don?t think for a second this is a statement of consistency, if the Tigers hadn?t been playing in a game that decided their premiership defence ? he would not have been compelled to say a thing. Harrigan and Finch have a right to be upset by Gallop?s comments and I hope they don?t roll over ? in fact having seen both deal with other controversy in the past, you assume they won?t ? because the game is in reality very open to interpretation on a lot of rules. For example, does anyone doubt that had Stephen Clark (who is the best referee in the game ahead of Shayne Hayne and Tony Archer ? who have both had very consistent seasons but are still a step below) been in control of the Manly-Newcastle game that Andrew Johns and probably Danny Buderus would have been sent to the sin bin (at the very least) for the dissent they levelled at Paul Simpkins? Newcastle would have ended the game with 11 men, and there would have been a riot on and off the field after the game. That?s not to say Johns and Buderus aren?t in the wrong but if the referee in control of the game had of shown the courage to send at least one superstar from the field for dissent, then imagine the scenes that night and subsequent uproar that David Gallop would have had to have dealt with stemming from a Clark-controlled game. Of course you can also play the ?Clark would?ve got the Steve Matai knock down call right? card but let?s be fair and face the fact that given Simpkins didn?t show in that game he had the ability to control the players and referee at the required standards, then he might actually have saved the NRL from a far bigger blight on the game than Andrew Johns? mouthing off and Todd Carney being technically offside by one leg. Ahhhh?. You?ve gotta love controversy in Rugby League ? because everyone?s right remember. Except of course for? NSC NEWS: Coming this October, Nicolson Sports Consultancy will be releasing a Season in Review Booklet available online through League Unlimited. It will include a comprehensive list of all the players who appeared in the NRL in 2006, detailed Team Rundowns, the Top 25 Players of 2006 and full disclosure of the League Player Ratings for every NRL player in 2006. It will be a must have for the collection of the statistically minded and those who want a simple and cost effective record of the 2006 NRL Season. There will also be a Tri-Nations supplement released at the completion of the Tournament in November.

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