Every week, every year, Rugby League officials, coaches, players, commentators and fans alike are left debating dubious officiating from the past weekend's games.
And as the 2013 finals season reaches its second last week, we have again been met with even more confusing refereeing.
But none of it will surpass the try on the seventh tackle to Cronulla against North Queensland in the first week of the finals. But are the referees entirely at fault?
Over the past few years there have been issues and errors regarding the hawkeye technology used in tennis to determine if a ball is in or out, the video review technology and methodology in AFL when determining if a goal has hit a post or not, the hotspot and snickometer technologiy in Cricket used to determine if a player is out or not and of course, the video referee issues in Rugby League.
Prior to all this technology, referees made errors, but they were human errors that we could all deal with. They game wasn't held up to deliberate a decision. All this tehcnology seems to have hampered all sport more than it has improved it. Once play stops to wait for a ruling to be made, momentum for a player or team is lost which does have a major impact on results.
Furthermore, it puts more attention on the officiating of the game. And when you keep heaping pressure on people who already have to deal with more than enough pressure, well, mistakes are going to be more frequent and more costly.
In Rugby League circles, the issue goes further than just the technology. Its the rules around the technology. First we had the ludicrous 'benefit of the doubt' ruling which favoured one team over the other, instead of using a fair system. Now we have a slight modification on that, whereby the on-field referee must make a decision as to whether its a try or not in their view and then it is up to the video ref to confirm. This however is still open to contention, because if the video referee cannot find enough evidence to overrule the on field referee's ruling, then it doesn't get overruled at all. It almost renders the video referee useless.
The other problem is having two referees. These issues combined convey the message that the NRL and the Refereeing Department have no faith in the on field referees.
Throw in constant rule additions and tweaks (shoulder charges, punching) as well as the issue with players diving and intentionally colliding with decoy runners so as to prevent a try under the obstruction rule and wrestling holds to name the most major has left referees with no confidence, under the most intense pressure every week than any referees in the past, with more things to look for, with fans and commentators berating them at every call more aggressively than ever before, you can start to understand that the issue stems much further than just poor refereeing ability.
If you need evidence to show exactly what I mean, then go and watch some NSW Cup footy. You barely notice the referee, which is a true testament to good officiating.
If we want our refereeing to be better, then we need to show faith in the referees and make their jobs easier. Instead of banning shoulder charges, just ban all contact with the head and neck, however its done. If contact with the head is made, then send the player off, or to the sin bin and let the judiciary deal with them. These players should not remain on the field for hitting someone high.
Revert back to one referee on the field.
Video referee's should not be awarding any tries if they cannot prove certainly that a try has been scored.
The NRL should issue a directive to all NRL clubs that wrestling will not be tolerated. Furthermore, let all clubs know that every match will be scrutinised by the match review committee and if any wrestling holds are being used, the players will be suspended.
The NRL needs to stop forcing the on-field referees to continually monitor more and more aspects of the game.