Rugby League: The end is not near

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Picture credit: Stephen Chavez

Last Friday the Sharks were the beneficiaries of a series of debacles by NRL officials. It undoubtedly led to some serious hatred by fans and commentators alike, a lot of it justified.

This isn’t a piece designed to defend the officiating there. It was woeful in every matter.

However, there has since been an echoing of carrying on that is excessive, unhelpful, emotive and foolish.

We’ve had Ricky Stuart in his press conference, regarding the officiating debacles, “This is why people are turning off rugby league.”

Then there was Phil Rothfield on NRL360 talking about all the emails he's received from so many people who are fed up with the officiating.

It's not as bad as they'd have you believe

This reminds of a quote from the first episode of the Australian TV series Frontline

“What people? No people! And that is the bloody trick, the beautiful trick!”

The TV Ratings for the NRL this year haven’t nosedived as the doomsayers suggest they should have. If people are turning off, why are ratings still strong?

If people are turning away from the game, explain how it is that crowds are averaging higher than any of the last 5 years?

Regular season crowd averages

2018 (After Round 19) – 16,042 per game

2017 – 15,152

2016 – 15,486

2015 – 15,076

2014 – 15,904

2013 – 15,941

2012 – 16,638

These people who purport to love the game, but have incessantly told everyone that it’s dying; it’s being killed; it’ll be dead soon etc, are akin to those kooky nutters who yell verses of the bible at shadows and holding placards saying “The end is near.”

Meanwhile, the public is walking past them, and through the turnstiles into games.

Now let's be clear, the officiating has been a mess this year. That is not in question. But the solution isn’t derision and doomsaying. Threats, insults, and sarcasm of officials isn’t a workable solution. It’s part of the problem.

Rash decisions won't help at all

Requests to bring back Bill Harrigan are foolish and short-sighted. In 2012 Harrigan was sacked after a series of controversial officiating decisions and justifiably so. Why hire a previous failure to replace a current failure?

Calls to scrap the bunker are also unhelpful. The technology is brilliant and needs to be persevered with. The issue is with the people using it and their interpretations. 

There needs to be a smaller team involved with the bunker, which will help improve consistency. Ideally, two video referees would be best


Appoint Luke Phillips and Luke Patten to the bunker, as they are both referees and former NRL players.

The bunker would then ONLY be used to adjudicate on tries when asked. Nothing else.

Small, simple changes that will improve consistency.

This should be more than enough to ensure referees don’t kill the game off for good.

Do you really think rugby league is struggling as much as doom-mongers like Phil Rothfield think it is? Let us know in the comments below.

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