I�ve seen some embarrassing refereeing performances in my years following the game, but I�m not sure that too many can compare with the dilapidated efforts which British referee Russell Smith displayed at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
Admittedly, it wasn�t just Smith�s incompetence; the whole band of officials were at fault. But the referee can often set the tone for his pupils to follow, and Russell Smith showed yesterday that he�d be better served refereeing fourth grade English rugby union than first grade rugby league in Australia.
A contributor to the problem is the fact that the NRL wants to persist with four-game Sundays on both the Test and City/Country weekends. While this doesn�t impact on the referees themselves - as they are only allocated one game each round - it does expose the lack of depth of the NRL�s officials when four games are played at the one time. And the game which was clearly the most affected was the Tigers/Sea Eagles battle at Leichhardt Oval.
A method of alleviation for the NRL would be to move one of those Sunday games to a Monday night, and leave at least one weekend in between the Test match, and the City/Country fixture. This would enable a few of the officials from Saturday�s games to back up on a Monday night, and at the same time give the sides who play the Monday night match a Sunday game the following round.
I do have an extension on that view altogether, but I�ll keep that powder dry for the moment.
Let�s firstly list the blunders that Smith presented yesterday, if we can fit them all in:
- Manly centre Steven Bell was awarded a try in the first half after fellow centre Steve Matai appeared to knock the ball on in the lead-up.
- A penalty was given against Manly winger Paul Stephenson with seven minutes remaining for an incorrect play-the-ball, even though two Tigers players were pushing him off balance.
- A decision of �No Try� from video referee Chris Ward on a possible Benji Marshall four-pointer, after Manly centre Steven Bell was ruled to have been impeded in back play. Bell illustrated his acting talent a few hours early; the logies began at 8pm, not 4pm.
- Manly interchange hooker Shayne Dunley extorted a penalty out of video referee Ward for a supposed high shot.
The four errors listed above were the major refereeing gaffes in the match, but there were a considerable number of minor offences from the officials that we will need to pass-up on this week, as there are more pertinent issues to grind our teeth into for now.
As for the NRL�s course of action, Russell Smith needs to be thrown back to Premier League immediately but he also needs to be told of his wrongdoings. I think, too often, referees� boss Robert Finch has relegated referees to Premier League just for the sake of it, or to at least let it be perceived that the NRL is taking some action against a poor refereeing performance. Finch needs to explain to Smith where his slipping up is occurring, because these problems don�t just fix themselves. We often see referees have one weekend in Premier League and then they�re back the next weekend making the same mistakes. Smith continues to make these errors and it appears as though he hasn�t learned his lessons.
Smith must be told how to referee a game of football properly and until he illustrates the ability to do this, he should remain in Premier League.
Video referee Chris Ward needs a week off also, perhaps one weekend looking in the mirror will do him a credible service.
That�s my main gripe for this week. Now for a few others:
- Michael Crocker�s dangerous tackle on the weekend against South Sydney was without doubt the worst since Stephen Kearney�s effort on Jared McCracken in the year 2000. The book should be thrown at Crocker, if I was him I�d take the nine weeks for the early guilty plea rather than contest the charge and risk twelve weeks. He should take the nine weeks and cool his heels, before launching himself into the Storm�s premiership assault. Funnily enough, our friends over in the Super 14 had to adjudicate on a tackle from George Gregan which was five times worse, but it only drew a one-week ban. I�m surprised that it�s only our backs which seem to be converting to union, there�s certainly plenty of positions available for forwards such as Crocker, of which brutality is their forte.
- As I alluded to earlier, I feel as though I�ve come up with a perfect solution to counter the ARL�s substantial or excessive representative schedule. Do you really think there�s a specific need for the Test match or the City/Country fixture? Personally, I feel that the three origin fixtures, as well as the Kangaroo tour at the end of the year are beneficial enough. I don�t see the need for the Test at such an early stage of the season, whilst players are still warming to the task of playing football week-in, week-out. I also cannot comprehend the need for a City/Country clash. It is, well, supposedly, a selection trial for the NSW State of Origin side. But in previous years they seem to have penciled the side in before this match has even taken place. A classic example was a few years back when Scott Hill was man of the match in the City/Country face-off, but missed Origin selection. The City/Country game is, and always has been a waste of time. Yes, it is pleasing to see the game back out in the bush where it belongs, but I don�t understand why the NRL can�t just make a rule that each club needs to play one home game every two seasons in a country town. That would satisfy their need for quality football just fine.
- Is it just me, or are the Sharks a better side when Adam Dykes is running the show - not Brett Kimmorley? Dykes seems to control things much better for the shire-based outfit and Kimmorley just seems to limit their attack with his flat style of play. This is just a thought of mine, personally, if I was the coach of the Sharks, I�d be starting Brett Kimmorley in Premier League upon return from injury. The Sharks were terrific yesterday; a 30-12 victory over arch-rivals the St George Illawarra Dragons has signaled that their intentions of winning the 2006 title for the late Steve Rogers were not just a gesture of good-will, but could possibly become reality. Lance Thompson is in career-best form and the victory would have been bittersweet for the former fire-breathing Dragon, who would not look out of place in a sky-blue jumper just quietly.
- Last week I touched on Brett Finch�s comments after the Roosters� win over the Cowboys last weekend. Finch was quoted as saying �all those so-called fans can kiss my arse.� Perhaps, after yesterday�s performance, Roosters fans could be forgiven for wanting to kick his arse. Roosters supporters have every right to be fuming with Finch�s comments. As stakeholders in the club, whether they be members, paying spectators, or buyers of merchandise, they are entitled to voice their concerns if they feel that other stakeholders in the club are not pulling their weight. Anyone who puts money into any club deserves their voice to be heard. I am baffled as to why the Roosters have persisted with him for so long, and his latest comments could be the last straw for Ricky and the Bondi hierarchy.
That�s all for my rant this week, I�d love to hear your views on this weekend�s action. It�s been an intriguing one. Send me an email; I�d appreciate hearing from you.
The game which I�ll be keeping my eye on this weekend will be the top-of-the- table clash between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at Olympic Park on Saturday night. I really can�t split those two sides but with Crocker out, the Cowboys might just grab the points. Nevertheless, it�ll be a beauty and put a few on ice for it all the same.
Until next week, enjoy your footy!