The bizarre finish to Monday night’s National Rugby League match between the Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons at AAMI park highlighted just how far behind the NRL is compared to the other major football code in the country, AFL. The fact remains that Storm winger Young Tonumaipea played the ball fractionally after the siren sounded,and from the resulting play the ball the Storm kicked to the right, the ball found its way back to the left before Ryan Hoffman’s suspect pass saw Tonumaipea score in the corner to win the game. Sadly the referee declined to go upstairs to rule on a match-winning try, although they never ask if the ball was played before the siren anyway, and for no apparent reason with all the camera angles and replays, the video referee can’t rule on forward passes.

The next day, NRL officials released a statement saying “technically” the siren had sounded before Tonumaipea played the ball and the referee should have called full-time, and the Dragons awarded two points. The NRL’s limp statement is not going to appease Dragons fans whose team is on a three match losing streak, and this loss could be the difference between playing finals football or not.

In AFL, a game where several clubs have member numbers in excess of 50,000 and whose crowd figures regularly dominate NRL crowd figures, if the siren goes that’s it, game over, if the ball hasn’t passed the goal line when the siren goes the points don’t count. If the umpires are unsure they have a video review to make sure. If a player takes a mark and then the siren goes, he can have a shot at goal. Back in 2006, a match between St Kilda and Fremantle at Aurora Stadium in Tasmania ended in controversy when the full-time siren sounded, with Fremantle in front by a point. The siren was very quiet and some players heard it, but the umpires did not, so play continued. A second siren sounded,(this time heard by the umpires) but in the meantime a free kick had been paid to St Kilda and a behind registered, the game ending in a draw.

Fremantle lodged a complaint, in a similar way the Dragons have, and the AFL upheld their complaint and removed the final behind and awarded the win to Fremantle, ruling that the time-keeper had failed in his duty to sound the siren until it was heard by the umpires. Put simply, the AFL realised that a mistake had been made, rectified it, awarded the win to the right team, and moved on. to what shapes as a fantastic Easter weekend of rugby league The NRL on the other hand, admitted its’ mistake, didn’t award the Dragons the win they earned, and the game is mired in yet another refereeing controversy instead of focusing on what shapes to be a fantastic Easter weekend of rugby league.