Off the Wall

If you had said to me a month ago that the Melbourne Storm salary cap rort would have a serious competitor for the disaster of the year, I would have urged you to give up strong drink!

Yet today, despite the rort now being about double what we had been told, it is a real contest in the race to the bottom.

And the other contestant? The NRL referees, touch judges and video referees!

Over the weekend, and especially in the Roosters v Bulldogs game, the standard of refereeing was even worse than it has been...if that is possible!

Increasingly commentators are sharing my view that the time has come to abandon the dual referee system, and focus on developing eight or nine good quality referees who can handle premiership matches week in week out.

We currently don't have eight or nine referees who are consistently of an acceptable standard - let alone sixteen or seventeen!

The dual referee system has not been a success - and it is now dragging down the whole a critical point in the season.

The blunders by referees Badger and De La Haras in the Roosters win over the Bulldogs must surely mean they will be dumped from first grade. But who for?

The other game where decisions by the officials were appalling - the Dragons v the Rabbitohs - and this has led the respected Rabbitohs coach, John Lang, to complain about the standard of the referees not only in that game but generally. And Lang is one of those who seldom complains.

What disturbed me was the response from the referees boss, Robert Finch, who made the comment that "Langy is a good mate of mine so we'll have a chat".

That is oh so typical of the flippant approach Finch and his sidekick Bill Harrigan take to criticism of the standard of refereeing - and it is why Finch, and probably Harrigan, should be shown the door by the NRL.

Whether we like it or not rugby league is a game where the decisions made by officials are of consequence and can be game-changing. That is how the rules ensure it is, and will remain.

The standard of refereeing is arguably - as Greg Hartley said last week - as bad as it has ever been.

The game is more professional than ever when it comes to coaching and training, and the current crop of first grade players would rival those of any era. Yet the standard of refereeing is appalling, and declining.

David Gallop needs to intervene before the referees join the Storm at the very bottom of the 2010 season.

And before more games are decided by poor referee - and video referee decisions - and not by the contest between two teams.

He needs to dump the dual referee system (which is now just one referee and some sidekick who gets in the road more often than not); and put the administration of the referees in the hands of someone coaches, players, and fans can have confidence in!