2002. The game we play and love is rugby league. We are drawn to the sport by the teams, the atmosphere and the players. So why in the blue hell are the refs so famous??
Even to the most casual of fans, the names of Harrigan, Clark, Mander and Hampstead would mean something. Right down to the most loyal of fans, who could rattle off 10 referees without a problem. Does this apparent rugby league fascination with refs pose a problem?? How about Cricket? How about AFL? How about Basketball? Could anyone really name more than 1 or 2 of the officials involved in this game?
Perhaps it is the Hollywood lifestyle. Sex Symbol Bill (As he constantly referred to by............his wife), is the perfect example. The guy has had everything from a free flowing mullet to a short back and sides. He typifies the professionalism of league in 2002; he earns the big dollars, drives the fast cars and lives off publicity.
Publicity?? Hold on a second, the guy is a referee! He is there to enforce the law, punish the offenders and stand up for everything that is right and wholesome in the game. I never knew the role of a ref was so exhaustive. In recent times, i have seen him winning court cases against Alan Jones, promoting the refereeing industry in the media and having a public slanging match with Gordie Tallis. Is there anything the man cannot do? How about talking Bill dolls, or even a role for him on the Bert Newton breakfast show?
To be fair to the man, he is not alone. The Grasshopper Gommersal and Greg Hartley were pioneers in the industry of superstar refs. Gommersal had the blues fans in fits of rage throughout the 80s with his 'unorthodox' style of officiating, and Hartley had disgruntled fans chasing him around the field, not to mention the claims of cheating against him. But in real terms, they were only refs. Simple men, simple role. Unfortunately they became bigger than the game, bigger than the players who put the hard yards in to play.
Every week, its the same story. The media will jump on a ref, bag out a bad call and further position the spotlight squarely on the men in the middle. The point is, that it takes away from the game. The great deeds of the individual are being overshadowed. Who could forget:
- Bill telling Gordie "Your Off" in the most dramatic of ways - Clark giving out 30 penalties during a Penrith/Parra game 2 years ago - Bill backing up again this year and giving Gordie the bin again
In reality, its a joke. Fans are not interested in refereeing decisions. They want to see a game of league. The game is so heavily influenced by the refs in 2002, and this is wrong. 'Hollywood Bill' and 'Get back 10 metres Hampstead' need to relinquish their memberships with NIDA and get on with doing the simple job that they are employed to do.