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

Hugh McGahan: Refs lose it over don't touch rule

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Kieran Foran should not have been charged with contrary conduct. Photo / Getty Images
Kieran Foran should not have been charged with contrary conduct. Photo / Getty Images

It's time for the NRL's witch-hunt around players touching referees to stop.

It has become out of hand - pardon the pun - when a player like Kieran Foran is found guilty of contrary conduct for making contact with a match official.

Please. What he did was anything but threatening or contrary to the spirit of rugby league. Or life in general.

Referees changed the rules of engagement when they started talking to players and using their first names to create a relationship. It opened the door for more friendly discussions between referee and player, which can lead to acknowledgement of the same via a touch.

Yet they've now taken a tough stance on players touching them regardless of whether it's aggressive or not. Perhaps before charges are laid referees should be asked by the judiciary if they felt threatened.

When I'm dealing with people, whether on a sporting, business or personal level, I often touch them on the shoulder to show I agree with them. It's respectfully done.

We can all tell when a player is acting in an aggressive manner towards a referee and that's when the NRL should take action. This happened last year when David Klemmer and fellow Bulldog James Graham respectively swore at and confronted a referee. It was an ugly incident and, rightly, the pair faced consequences.

Foran's punishment is laughable, but he did not help himself or the argument against these measures by pleading guilty to the charge. I realise he did not want to sit out a week through suspension by fighting it but his admission of 'guilt' only perpetuated the problem.

What's happening is political correctness gone mad.

Another area of officiating that annoys me is the lack of courage shown towards clear acts of foul play. Instead of sin-binning a player, or even sending them off in serious cases, officials hide behind putting a player on report. This doesn't punish the offending team in any way and, similarly, doesn't help opponents who sometimes lose a player through injury.

Referees seem too scared to make a decision, even though they have video officials ready to help.

Quite often a player is getting treatment and a quick check of the replay would tell them if a player should be sin-binned.

Sin-binning a player sends more of a message than putting them on report and is fairer. The best option is doing both.

What I have been impressed with is the effectiveness of the new bunker so far. I wasn't sure how successful it was going to be but they're mostly making the right decisions and quickly. It's taking only one or two replays, with four angles to choose from, meaning the game can restart more quickly.

It has been a success and I'm not surprised other sports are looking at doing the same. Whenever I watch rugby now, it seems like they're stuck in the dark ages with endless replays. But league was in the same position six months ago.

- Herald on Sunday

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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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