A modest proposal to improve the image of the game. Let’s crack down on poor sportsmanship.

Now hear me out here. I know there are myriad issues facing the game at the moment and this may not be very high on the list of priorities for the powers that be but, maybe it should be.

There are three things in particular that happen game after game that could be eradicated in the space of a week if the referees were to just say ‘enough.’

I’m talking about throwing the ball away after making an error, the sarcastic responses to these errors such as patting the error maker on the head and clapping him and players screaming at the referees.

Let’s deal with the interactions of the players with the referees first. This is not intended as a complaint against anyone individual mind you, but do we really need captains to be having a running chat with the referees in the first place?

And even if we do, I don’t think there is anything in the rules that says the rest of the team should be running at the referee and screaming in his face as he is trying to communicate with the video referee.

In every other sport that I can think of, there are strictly policed times when the referee may be spoken to, how he may be approached and by whom. This is for a variety of very important reasons, not interrupting the flow of the game, protecting officials and teaching respect.

Players running at the referee as he tries to communicate with the bunker breaches every single part of these reasons.

It slows down an already painstakingly slow process. Fans are already annoyed at the slowness of the bunker, players yelling at the referee and making him have to tell them to go away slow it down further.

An official would be well within their rights to feel threatened in this scenario too. They could never admit it publicly because they would be ridiculed but, a couple of big props who are angry at the game getting in the face of a little referee has to be intimidating.

And it teaches the children watching the game that respect is a one-way street. Respect the players, not the officials is the underlying message as long as we allow this.

It could be stopped in a week if the referees just said ‘enough’ and penalised anyone who approached them at the wrong time.

Even more annoying to me though, is the way it seems to be acceptable for the players to throw tantrums and/or mock each other upon a handling error being committed.

I know many league fans hate comparisons to the AFL but, this is one area they got right a long time ago. Throwing the ball away after committing an error is petty, it is sooky, it is pathetic behaviour that teaches children that throwing a tantrum is acceptable.

I know emotions run high and it is hard to control yourself completely in the moment, but, throwing the ball away is childish and should never be tolerated.

In the AFL, they impose a fifty-metre penalty for such behaviour. They did this many years ago and guess what – it stopped overnight. Nobody does it anymore and so the game can flow.

So what I hear you ask? They pack a scrum anyway, don’t they?

What about the 20m restart? That’s supposed to be a quick tap and is often held up by throwing the ball away!

And, as for the sarcastic responses of the defensive team that often follow an error, I’m all for competitive gamesmanship, but, that is energy that could be better focused on the play.

It solves nothing. It starts fights when players take offence. It is basically bullying. It should never be acceptable to bully.

And once again, this could be fixed in a week if the referees just marched offenders 10 metres for it.

A modest proposal, but for a game with an image problem, a very workable solution in this author’s opinion.

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