In the beginning of the year I wrote an article expressing my concern on the effect the extended power to the TMO will have in the game in this year’s competition – with some justification it now seems.
But it’s always easy to blame the ref isn’t it, especially when your team is at the receiving end – but what happens when different teams, and different individuals in different situations start expressing the same concerns? Just keep quiet and accept the old line we have been given that ‘referees will always make mistakes’ or ‘referees only gets flack from losing teams’? No my friends, time for keeping quiet or risk being called a bad loser has come and gone – the officiating in rugby has reached a crisis point and the governing bodies had better wake up and sort this out.
Just last week the Stormers received a fine of over R 200 000 for apparently using some choice words at a match official they felt made some poor calls. Never condoning the abuse of match officials in fear of the game becoming like the circus we see in football, but lately the frustration born out of some really poor officiating is understandable.
This week All Blacks world cup winning coach, Graham Henry, also didn’t mince his words on the poor officiating in the game between the Crusaders and Blues over the weekend – a game which Ali Williams’ comments following the game on some decisions summed up the situation perfectly when he said “I cannot tell you what I feel or believe (regarding officiating) as we do not have the money to pay for a fine”.
I can highlight instances with the Bulls in Brisbane and Canberra where two decisions turned the game, ridiculous citings of Sharks players we all knew would never amount to anything and lack of citings where it was clear for everyone to see how certain players punch opponents.
The point with all of the above is that criticism is not only coming from the bad losers anymore, it is coming from all corners and it is coming more frequently.
My issues with the TMO as highlighted a couple of months ago was firstly that we do not have the technology for them to make correct decisions and secondly, the competency of the individuals or how they are limited in the context of the laws or protocols to make the correct decisions.
Focussing on the two most recent incidents between the Bulls and the Highlanders where the Bulls were awarded a try what looked like a clear forward pass or knock and the penalty try awarded to the Rebels in the final 10 minutes of their match reaffirms these problems.
In the Bulls game the pass in question happened close to their 22, the TMO ruled that the pass was not forward and the try stood. The problem the TMO or the officials sit with is the camera angles available to them, and also the fact that millions of viewers see exactly what they see. I read respected law-guru, Paul Dobson’s views on this and he is in agreement with the TMO but myself, the television commentators at the time and hundreds of people on social networks disagreed with him.
What does this become now? A situation where the laws are under scrutiny or a situation where we have a difference in opinion of what we all saw? I did not see the hands move backwards and believed it to have gone forward, as did many others, the TMO and Dobson saw it otherwise so do we now check who has the best eyesight or the higher definition television sets? Whether Dobson and the TMO were right or others like myself is not actually even the point here, the fact that we disagree means there is an element of guessing involved by everyone and once we start guessing the whole point of the TMO is lost.
Even more perplexing was the official explanation of the Stormers penalty try incident. SA Refs on their website justified the decision as ‘technically correct’ because the ‘TMO did not have the jurisdiction’ to make recommendations to the referee on the forward pass prior to the foul play incident because technically ‘a try was not scored’. Are you shitting me?
Let’s apply some reverse logic here. If the Rebels player was not held back (reason for foul play and penalty try) and he did out-sprint Habana to the line (which I seriously doubt in any event) and legally scored the try, it would have been disallowed because the kick through from the Rebels player occurred after a clear knock on from another Rebels player.
Again, what is the bloody point of a TMO then?
If the TMO does not have the technology available to make decisions without guessing, or is paralysed by protocol in making the correct decision, let’s just remove him completely please because it serves no bloody purpose.
As for the precious match officials who feels offended by a couple of choice words leveled at them for poor decisions the solution is simple, improve your game, it’s your bloody job, or come join me for a couple of weekends down at the local pub for rugby games on a two-week conditioning program where I can guarantee you skin as thick as an elephant’s after hearing some real abuse.