The Take-back


In all of rugby league there is no hand gesture (John Hopoate aside) more recognisable than the match referee awarding a try.

The official points to the spot (or scoring team). Some do it with a straight arm, some with a downward angle as if trying to pinpoint the exact location the ball was grounded. The other hand brings the whistle to the lips and a loud, measured note is heard by all.

If the try concerned is a clear scoring event the affirming whistle is blown seconds later, the ref pausing long enough to check with their aides that all is well. Nothing punctuates a game more than that sight and sound. It is the full stop that tells the players and spectators that that particular passage of play has reached an indelible, if not final, conclusion.

The NRL’s new try review process has gutted all this. The pointed hand, the whistle, are now meaningless. We now sit there fully aware that even if the on-field referee is 100% convinced that a try has been scored he still has to stand there and await confirmation from the bunker.

Meanwhile the points have been awarded – at the ground and in the loungeroom viewers are in full knowledge that the scoreline has either grown or shrunk by four points, as well as the knowledge that the awarding of said try has been a perfunctory dance.

I’m not arguing that the previous iterations of scoring reviews were better, but they did have some things going for them. Suspense was always a factor, particularly if scores were close and provided the replays didn’t go on too long (a cap on replays would’ve been preferable to what V’landys has given us). If they did pick up something in breach of the rules it simply meant the points were never awarded in the first place, rather than this farce where points are whisked away as quickly as they are given.

Whilst discussing this with Dan he mentioned how some fans now feel as though they can’t celebrate the awarding of try, the shadow of the impending review causing them to reign in their emotions. Rugby league thrives on emotional connections and it’s sad that a single rule change may be stifling this particular outpouring of excitement.

One other point is how this works for betting agencies. I personally loathe the Australian sports gambling industry (an article for another day) but I can see how this new rule may present a problem. Almost every betting vendor offers an option along the lines of “If your team leads by X but goes on to lose we’ll pay you out regardless of the final result”. Have they updated their terms to include the amendment “this does not include the automatic awarding of points prior to a mandatory video review”? If your team leads by X on the scoreboard for even the briefest moment is this not an official reflection of the game at this point in time? I can imagine the bookies may not be keen on this scenario.

Rugby league has always been played and officiated in shades of grey. The modernization of review technology has merely given these shades contrast, picking out the finer details. There will always be room for error, as there will still be the occasional howler. If you can be certain the points should have been given then you shouldn’t have awarded them in the first place.

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One comment

  1. V’landys has brought it some great new changes. Which has made the game more enjoyable to watch. Firstly going back to one ref, which is fantastic. And new 6 again, instead of keep blowing penalty, after penalty. But I hope they don’t try to make it even more faster, as we are seeing too many injuries as it is. The other change that I am glad they got rid of is the Bunker. They would look at different angles, and speeds, take forever to make a decision, and still get it wrong, on some occasions. But I agree once the ref, has pointed his hand to a downward motion, and blown his whistle, everyone including the player would assume they have scored. ie Sebastian Kris. He was so happy to score his first NRL try, in his first game back, only for the video ref to take it off him. If the ref, thinks it was a TRY, let him award it. Like the refs, did back in the good old days, like Bill Harrigan use too do, and others


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