NRL referees these days are like the bus driver without a bus: confused, lost and brow-beaten.
This is not a piece about refereeing bashing. That is a sport as old as the game itself and no matter how good referees are there will always be complaints about forward passes and knock-ons and all that. That is par for the course.
This is about providing the referees with the right structure to succeed, giving these professionals the leadership, development, authority and flexibility to prosper in a cut-throat environment.
These are changes that must be made if the referees are to have any chance.
Change in Leadership
It is apparent that the refereeing fraternity as a whole is not happy with the leadership of Tony Archer. He has seemingly taken away their authority and has shown an overall lack of consistency. He has proven reactionary and too concerned with PR. The referees need an actual leader.
— telegraph_sport (@telegraph_sport) July 27, 2017
Policing Not Lawmaking
One of the big shifts in the nature of the refereeing leadership in recent years has been the move away from policing the rulebook to attempting to create the laws of the game through what they call “interpretations”. Rules are ignored. Interpretations that aren’t actually rules are enforced. Referees, through their leadership, have been forced to move from a policing role to a legislative one.
The elasticity in rule interpretation is not helping. As you say a few weeks of pain enforcing the rules and watch the players comply.
— Lyn (@lyng62) July 24, 2017
Officiating Not Managing
Referees have lost much of their authority because they try to manage a game rather than just call it. Players aren’t penalised for moving off the mark, they are told to go back. Players are called back onside. Referees tell forwards how to pack scrums. And that is what we see. There is no doubt a want to have the final penalty count close and a hope to keep the game relatively even through acts like not sending players off.
— shaunallanmoroney (@bluesterboy) July 22, 2017
Bunker Replaced by Challenge System
The Bunker is the biggest myth in rugby league. And it has usurped the head on-field referee as the top dog in the pecking order. They have final say over most tries. They can overrule a subjective decision by an on-field referee. They seem to be the final arbiter over whether a player should be sent off. The NRL should move to a challenge system similar to the NFL where the on-field referee then uses video technology to keep or overturn his decision.
— 7Sport (@7Sport) September 1, 2016
Refereeing Accountability and Transparency
There is almost no accountability or transparency in the refereeing ranks. Poor performances are rarely punished by any more than a week in reserve grade – and that is reserved for incidents of total public outrage. Bunker officials are almost never dumped. There are secret signals and codewords used by refs to check things like penalty counts. There are no media requirements. Tony Archer rarely takes responsibility for mistakes. There needs to be a greater pool of referees and, as Ricky Stuart noted last weekend, the dissemination of all communications between officials.
— Troy Deighton (@Troy_Deighton) July 21, 2017
Full Law Review
No sport changes its rules more often and with less forethought than Rugby League. Example: kickers should be penalised for kicking the ball dead deliberately through a seven-tackle set so now everything from a missed field goal to a dropped bomb by an attacking player get the same penalty. The lawbook is actually a mess when a player can be binned for a professional foul but not for an act of violence. A complete review of the rugby league rulebook is required to simplify and clarify rules.
— CommentaryBoxSports (@Comm_Box_Sports) May 28, 2017