In 2018 the NRL referees were given a green light to crack down on ruck infringements as wrestling was slowing down play too much. Several rounds into the season we saw punishing penalty counts and many sin bins, which revealed just how rife the issue was and how the NRL was right to take action and were taking the right action.
Enter Phil Gould and Phil Rothfield. Gould admittedly has a brilliant Rugby League brain but had been in the media side of the game for so long, he had turned into a miserable whinger. Rothfield on the other hand is a nobody in Rugby League. He doesn’t understand the game nor does he want to. His job is to bitch and moan and get people talking about whatever inane squalid commentary he serves up to the masses.
These two complained loud and hard for a few weeks about the crackdown, how it was killing the game. Rothfield even tweeted ‘The game is shit now’ before he deleted it like the vacuous coward that he is.
Then came the catalyst. Cronulla vs Melbourne. 33 penalties were blown. Luke Lewis and Cameron Smith both spent time in the sin bin.
Then NRL boss Todd Greenberg rolled back the crackdown, demanding referees to ‘only call the obvious penalties’, essentially echoing the demanding howls of Gould.
It was a weak decision by Greenberg that signalled his eventual demise in 2020, when he was replaced by the golden child of the mainstream media, Peter V’Landys. In his short time at the top, V’Landy’s sided with the ref hating dinosaurs and cut the number of on-field referees from 2 to 1. He gave the NRL Bunker more authority to intervene in the game. He brought in the referee hating ‘Captain’s Challenge’ system which gave either side an opportunity to question an on-field decision. He also gave us set restarts and a few other weird rules that no one wanted or asked for. He appointed Graham Annesley as the in-house referee basher, even giving him a platform every Monday to highlight every referee error and dole out apologies.
But the mainstream media applauded everything they did. Of course they did, they lobbied to have V’Landy’s there.
The game though went from competitive and unpredictable to horrid. Games were being decided by wider and wider margins. The gap between the poor and elite clubs was at its absolute widest in the salary cap era. And the officiating struggled with the constant barrage of rule changes that were imposed upon them and the game by the lunatic running the game.
July 24, 2022 saw the Cowboys beat the Wests Tigers by 1 point courtesy of a Captain’s Challenge, on a decision that a referee hadn’t made, after fulltime. North Queensland trailed by 1 point at the time, but they received a penalty, kicked a penalty goal and won the game by 1 point. NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley explained the following day, that referee Chris Butler was right to allow a captain’s challenge after full time, but that the decision to award a penalty by the Bunker was wrong. Then came some head scratching comments.
The referee and Bunker said a ref’s challenge was allowed because Butler had only blown a short whistle to stop play, not a long whistle to signal full time. What?
Annesley then said “The rules around a captain’s challenge allow for a challenge of any decision made by a referee to stop a game.” In this instance though, the stop in play was the end of the game. The game was over. The result was final. He then went on with some endless drivel about fulltime not being fulltime. Basically it was the inane rambling of an idiot trying to cover his own backside.
As for the penalty that was awarded, Annesley said, “We have examined that carefully this morning, we have looked at all of the available footage and we are just not satisfied that there was enough in that incident to warrant the decision of the Bunker to award the penalty.”
Give it was the last play of the game and that the penalty goal was incorrectly allowed, why won’t the NRL simply strike the goal from the record books and award the game to the Tigers?
Seems like a cut and dried case. The NRL has admitted the result was wrong by saying that the penalty, which cost the Tigers the game, never should have been awarded. Yet they refuse to right the wrong in what is a very clear and easy situation.
The sole referee in the middle failed. The Bunker intervention failed. The Captain’s Challenge failed. Graham Annesley failed. The NRL failed.
This whole sordid situation is the culmination of over 2 years of having the NRL run by a charlatan who, much like the insufferable dolts in the mainstream media who lobbied for him to replace Greenberg, knows very little about the game and even less about how to improve the game.
His supporters are less passionate and dwindling in numbers at a rapid rate. And for good reason, his vision for the game looks more like Rugby Union than Rugby League – lopsided possession stats, blowout scorelines, increasing the value of field goals, lord knows what next.
The game needs to go back to the future. Get rid of the clowns, stop listening to the mainstream media, because they don’t know nor care about what is in the games best interests, revert the rules back to what was in place in 2018, bring back 2 referees, revert the bunker back to officiating only on what the referee asks them to, put an end to this idiocy of taking points off the scoreboard after a try is scored – that only serves to anger fans.
Then and only then, will the game start to right itself.