I'll start by stating that there's not a sporting league in the world where referees get it wrong as often as they do in the NRL. Sadly, Super Rugby is on its way there.
I know taking a shot at the officials is easy and they have an incredibly tough job. But there's bigger things at stake here.
The level of inconsistency from officials frightens me.
Now, I don't want to sit here and finger-point certain decisions that are costing teams' games - why would I want to frustrate myself over Glen Jackson not awarding the Highlanders a penalty in 47mins of football? Or Ben O'Keeffe's penalty try-yellow card decision on Lachlan Boshier? Or another O'Keeffe shocker with the Joe Moody elbow to the head against the Tahs? Or the blatant inconsistency from TMO's in terms of interpretations. No, I haven't take my pill this morning so I can't afford to get worked up over that.
I want to talk about the rules put in place around players and coaches not being able to criticise the officials after the game if, in their opinion, they were hard done by. If a referee or official make a wrong call that directly affects the outcome of a game, what SANZAAR bosses must realise is it's a lot bigger than just a wrong decision.
Sport is a performance based game, if results aren't meeting expectations then changes will be made. Whether that be a player getting dropped, coaches shown the door, or what have you. So, if your team is resigned to a loss through the wrong actions of a referee there will most definitely be some frustration.
So, if players and coaches prepare all week to go out and get the four points on a weekend but are hard done by, why can they not go into the press conference and tell us what they think?
Instead they mask their frustration and bite their tongue. I take it back to the Crusaders vs Waratahs match and the elbow/obstruction from Joe Moody. The long and short of it is, it cost the Waratahs the game. Simple. If the Tahs take the four points there, that would put them as near certainties to make the playoffs. Instead the officials, (with all their camera angles and resources available to them), missed it.
Why are the officials a protected species?
Daryl Gibson and Michael Hooper should be well within their rights to call it for what it is - bullshit. These referees are professionals as well. I'm not talking about players and coaches spraying the local park referee, that's not on because they're volunteers with nowhere near the same facilities available to them. These Super Rugby referees are meant to be the best and they get paid handsomely for it. If they can take criticism from the fans and media, surely they can take it from those that their decision affects most?
I heard the officials say they saw the Moody incident shortly after, but the conversion had already been kicked so they couldn't do anything. Oh, that's just great then, an act of foul play occurs, a team is blatantly robbed, (which could have serious implications on their season down the road), but officials can't do anything about it because a team rushed the conversion? What an absolute disgrace that is.
The cherry on top for me is when the SANZAAR referee's boss gets involved.
The players who worked tirelessly all week in preparation and tried their hardest for 80mins, (only to be robbed of vital competition points), are finally putting it behind them on the Monday.
However, that's when the referee's boss comes out and says "We apologise, we got it wrong and we're sorry". Really? I mean you've robbed us of points, dented our home playoff chances and put the squad under unnecessary pressure but it's ok because you're sorry.
Five officials, multiple camera angles and slow motion replays? Save your apologies and just get it right.
We've had a Super Rugby final decided by the wrong call before, ironically it was the Waratahs vs Crusaders. We desperately can't let it happen again. It shouldn't be that hard to make the right decision, if the people at home can see it then the officials can too. In the likely event that it does happen again, let the players vent their frustration, let the coaches disagree with the ruling. They are the ones it affects the most. No one's questioning the integrity of the officials we're just questioning the decisions.
The process must be simpler. "How?" you say?
Well that's not my job. But whatever you decide, just make it happen, make it easy, and just promise me one thing…
Make it right.
- Sam "Lashes" Casey is The Country's social media guru and part of the on-air team. Catch him on The Country weekdays 12-1.