during the round four NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at Southern Cross Group Stadium on March 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.

The NRL has been subject to a lot of criticism in the opening month of the season with controversial match officiating that main talking point.

From the newly-introduced crackdown on play the balls, many spectators are concerned about the direction our game is headed.

Penalty after penalty, shifting the focus of the game onto an alternative pathway, and even upsetting rugby league royalty.

Though the fingers aren’t pointed towards the referees, rather the top of the officiating hierarchy, the referee’s boss.

The core explanation for the flowing run of penalties is that if the referee’s don’t blow after a visible incident, officials will often point out their errors post-match and it’s ruining our game.

But then again discipline plays a factor. Players need to abide, and silly off-side calls, alongside wrongful play-the-balls, can be avoided.

Consistency is the word often thrown into the frame when discussing decisions made. The referees have appeared to be consistently inconsistent. It’s frustrating, there is so much more to rugby league than final headlines stating a ‘controversial’ finish.

I often find myself assess the issue with sympathy towards the individuals involved, but at this stage of the season, and the amount of troubling signs, change is inevitable.

‘Disappointed’ is what Rugby League immortal Andrew Johns would describe himself after the controversial Good Friday blockbuster.

Johns isn’t the only one expressing concern, Channel Nine commentator Paul Vautin also had his say on the hot topic. 

“What’s going on with our game? They’re bewildered, the whole rugby league world is bewildered as to what’s going on with the great game of rugby league,” Vautin said.

“I can understand penalties for infringements but they’re really nitpicking and going hard at everything and it’s just wrong.

“I feel very privileged to have the job that I have which is to commentate on rugby league and come and watch rugby league, tonight what I saw was so disappointing by giving, I think it was 32 penalties, and no one enjoyed it.

“No one enjoyed watching that game.

“I don’t know what’s going on.”

To advance the quality of our game comes the need to revamp the officiating industry, to regain the respect of fans, and even rugby league greats.


  1. Last week Cronulla only conceded 6 penalties against the Eels . Gallen said on the footy show how Cronulla had worked hard to play by the rules & stay on side. That can’t be true judging by last nights shambles of game against the Storm. So how did Parramatta only receive 6 penalties against Cronulla when they played?
    Tamou got ten minutes in the bin for Penrith, against the Cowboys. Really for just doing a flop on tackle. It wasn’t near the try line & not connected with that earlier string of penalties the Cowboys received. Yet Morgan gets no sin bin for deliberately knocking down a player chasing a chip kick , when there was a chance for the Panthers to score.
    Way to many penalties blown in lots of games. Still not to consistent with so many non penalty calls though.

  2. The perfect storm last night (no pun intended) The notorious ill discipline of Cronulla + The notorious wrestling and niggling in the ruck of Melbourne + The refs over zealous approach to a technical clean up = A shambles that was hard to watch. A real shame as this match up is usually a showpiece rivalry. Sharkies will take the win though. Missing Dugan, Moylan and Bukuya this was a great defensive effort and the grit and toughness we expect from Cronulla. There’s not many teams that will keep a full strength Storm try less this season. The key to Cronulla’s success or failure this year will be consistency and greater discipline in all facets of the game plus making Southern Cross stadium a fortress again. The refs can’t be blamed totally for all of the mess last night but all we need is consistency and to let the two sides involved play footy and ultimately determine the result. We’d all hate to see Rugby League go down the road of continual stoppages due to technical breeches a la Rugby Union.. It’s one of the very few things keeping the game above Union as a spectacle. Further on the discipline thing, seeing Cam Smith finally reined in as a “mortal” was a rare highlight. The look on his face as the two hands went up for ten in the bin was priceless. Sharks fans can finally start to be happy with what they saw from their team defensively..

  3. Hopefully those that are behind this “penalise everything” push have realised, from last nights game at least, that extremism doesn’t work.

    I’m all for cleaning some aspects of the game that get abused, but within the “spirit of the game”. With rules as complex, or as grey, or as impossible to adjudicate, or however you want to describe them, even trying to “penalise all” is doomed to fail, and will probably destroy the sport. For example, with the 10m rule, was it 9.9m or 10.1m? How long, exactly, is too long in a tackle etc? Sure, you can, and we do, put rules around ever aspect of te game, but no human will ever get every call right in adjudicating them on the spot. They need to be ruled upon in context.

    Tell the clubs what aspects the refs will focus on, as they did re playing the ball this year, and ping those that are clearly breaching them, but don’t try to ping everything.

    I think the Sharks would have won the game last night, even with pre 2018 officiating, so they got the right result, in this case at least, but I watched the travesty, I mean the game, and will remember it, for many years to come, for all the wrong reasons. It was a joke, and by the end of the 80mins that was quite literally how I was seeing it (I actually found myself laughing at the end as they blew penalties).

    EastOfDivide, you’re spot on, theres still no consistency.

    I found myself agreeing 100% with Gus last night, and that can’t be a good thing.

  4. Over 30 Penalties , clearly not working. Send them to the bin after 5, the out of the game after that. Only way it will change is if teams play a half down 1-2 players. They can now handle 10mins with 12 players. Let’s see how a coach likes having to play 40-50minutes with 12 players, or even 11. The storm were giving them away for fun in the final 10 minutes.
    As a fan I felt the urge to watch the lunch break in the cricket over the final quarter of the storm/sharks game, even the replay was punishing.

  5. Souths Bulldogs game.
    Jackson is called out of the line to be spoken to about the number of penalties. Then doesn’t have the opportunity to return to his position. But it’s OK because the ref apologised.
    Warriors give away 5 penalties when under pressure on their line in less than 8 minutes (no sin bin) and only three penalties in 72 minutes in this “crackdown era”.
    And that’s only the two games I have had a chance to follow.
    Probably plenty more absurdity has gone on.
    I sometimes wonder if refs are given a directive to give some teams more latitude to keep them in the contest and if they run away with it. The result is put down to a “surprise upset”.

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