The man who holds many Australian Rugby League records for refereeing, goes on record calling for Tony Archer to be sacked.
A great man once said that a good referee is seen and not heard. This task has been made nearly impossible through the fact that a commentator of the game, Bill Harrigan, uses his position to openly question, bag and criticise today’s crop of referees. Every week, without fail, Harrigan will openly point out decisions that referees have made incorrectly. He has now called for the head of the referees, Tony Archer, to be fired from his position. I would be curious to know how Harrigan felt when exactly the same thing was said about him after his disappointing run as referees coach ended in 2012.
There is no more famous referee in Rugby League history and I would dare say Australian sport than Bill Harrigan. He was never a believer that referees should be part of the background and built himself a higher profile than a large majority of players earning himself the nickname “Hollywood”. It was this flamboyant style and cocky attitude that earned himself the fury of a number of detractors.
There was his stoush with former Queensland captain Gorden Tallis who Harrigan famously marched during game one of the 2000 Origin series after being called a cheat for missing what was two blatant knocks on in a lead up to a New South Wales Try. Then there was his decision to send three Eels players to the sin bin on the back of a 12-3 penalty count in a grand final rematch in 2002. Perhaps the man who made himself such a prominent figure as a referee throughout his career is part to blame for the opening up of constant criticism towards referees in the modern competition.
There is nobody with more credentials or knowledge to question referees than Bill Harrigan. The man has refereed a record 392 club games and a record 10 grand finals. He also has no better understanding of the immense scrutiny and pressure that comes with the position of referee’s boss having serving in this role up until 2012 when he was sacked. The main reasons? He had lost the confidence in the referees underneath him and his lack of ownership for the mistakes that the referees were making. This all sounds pretty familiar.
There is no disputing the fact that there is an issue at the moment with the consistency of referees and their decision making. However if Bill Harrigan has a problem with this, offer a solution and work with Tony Archer rather than throw him under the bus. I bet that he wished that someone offered to support him in the role before he was unceremoniously dumped from the same position. The role of the NRL referee boss would have to be one of the toughest positions in Australian sport. It is not made any easier by the constant undermining of the role by prominent figures in the media.
A referee on the field should be seen and not heard. I believe the same needs to happen off the field as well.