We were treated to two amazing games of rugby league over the Easter long weekend. On Friday night the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys played out a thrilling 21-20 grand final replay. On Saturday in the Intrust Super Cup the Easts Tigers and Norths Devils played out an equally enthralling 14 all draw.
This article is not about golden point. I am actually quite happy with the way both games finished. I am a traditionalist at heart and have some sympathy with the view that if you cannot separate two teams after 80 minutes they should split the points. However, you cannot argue with the pure excitement and entertainment value of how Friday nights’ game finished.
This article is about the biggest challenge facing our game currently – the video referee system, I believe it is the scourge of our game.
After Friday nights’ magnificent game far too much of the discussion and social media comment has centred around the video referee’s decisions and whether Kyle Feldt, Johnathan Thurston or Matt Gillett knocked on, whether Greg Eden’s feet were out and whether Ethan Lowe obstructed Alex Glenn. Around the grounds on Saturday these were the first things everybody was discussing when I approached any group of fans.
And that is a terrible indictment on our game.
After a magnificent game like we saw on Friday night the majority of the discussion should have focused on James Roberts, Jake Granville and Anthony Milford. There was certainly some discussion about these three and the game as a whole, but it was dwarfed by discussions about video referee decisions.
Contrast that with Saturdays enthralling 14 all draw at Suzuki Stadium, where all of the post-game discussion has been about five magnificent tries, just how good of a player Jake Foster is (he really is that good), how good Trae Clark might become and the goal kicking of Billy Walters.
No video referee and so no discussion about minute knock-ons and camera angles. I have a number of friends, and I include myself in this group, who prefer the Intrust Super Cup to the NRL and the lack of a video referee is one of the key reasons. The constant interruptions to the game, delays and endless replays kill it as a spectacle and ruin the atmosphere.
In 2014 I took two non-rugby league people (an AFL fan and a soccer fan) to the Anzac Day clash between South Sydney and the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. This was the game where Greg Inglis scored his incredible 80m solo try.
What struck me as we walked away from the game was that we were not discussing that try. We were discussing why the referee ‘kept making that little square sign in the air? These are exactly the kind of sport loving people we want to attract to our game and what they took away from a showpiece encounter like the Anzac Day clash was the involvement of the video referee, rather than the truly amazing game we had just witnessed.
It is time to give the men and women in the middle back the power to do what we pay them to do – make decisions. They are only human, they will get some right and some wrong, we all understand that, but hey so does the NRL’s much vaunted bunker.
It is time to get back to discussing football and not camera angles.