Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Time to review the reviewers

Johnathan Thurston argued the video refs' decision. Photo / Wayne Drought
Johnathan Thurston argued the video refs' decision. Photo / Wayne Drought

Video refs Steve Clark and Paul Simpkins helped Manly beat the Cowboys in their preliminary final on Friday night, and their performance means the system itself must be reviewed.

The two tries that benefited the Sea Eagles were extremely doubtful. The use of "benefit of the doubt" created frustration for the Cowboys players, in particular captain Johnathan Thurston. It changed his demeanour and the complexion of the game.

This fixture was in the balance and both decisions turned the game against the Cowboys. They were fighting their emotions, knowing they were likely to lose.

Too many times it is doubtful whether a try has been scored or not; too many times there is just as much reason not to award a try as there is to award one. If referees are doubtful about a try and send it upstairs to be looked at and the footage is inconclusive, despite all the angles they have, the decision should be handed back to the on-field ref to make as he would do if there was no video referee.

He is closer to it and if he thinks he can make a decision with which most people will be satisfied, it takes away the debate of what people saw on the screen and focuses on what the referee interprets.

Yes, this does place pressure on a ref - the same pressure as if he made the decision the moment it happened.

The referee deals with criticism no matter what he does during a game, so this is no different, but what this does eliminate is the sceptical value of having video replays when those replays cannot provide the evidence to categorically give a yes/no answer.

Games at this stage of the year are vital and teams and fans want to win based on the merits of themselves and the referee, but people will accept from the referee a call that is down to human instinct rather than an electrical device that cannot serve its purpose.

The use of the video replay system has changed the complexion of the game and I am not convinced it has been for the better. There are decisions made on the speed of the camera, which is vital in some incidents. For example, if a player or the ball is deemed out of play, the slow-motion camera determines if one or the other is out in 99.9 per cent of cases. The action of a try being scored when that player has lost control of the ball is conjecture; the slow-motion replay shows a finger in contact with the ball in contact with a blade of grass and this is deemed to be a try. But if you view it at normal speed, he has lost control of the ball and no try is awarded.

There is too much debate now on this evidence. We need to review use of the video or we will continue to be frustrated fans.

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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