SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Roosters and Panthers fans arrive for the round three NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Sydney Roosters at Pepper Stadium on March 18, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

How the NRL is turning fans away

The recent NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and Sydney Roosters has further highlighted the biggest issue that is hurting the game of rugby league and consequently turning fans away.

On Saturday night, the Panthers were holding onto a slim 12-10 lead with just under 10 minutes to go, before a Michael Gordon try in the 73rd minute gave the Roosters the lead, which would eventuate in a Roosters victory. However, the try came after a forward pass from Latrell Mitchell to winger Daniel Tupou who then put the kick through for Gordon who scored on the play.

The NRL Referees Boss Tony Archer came out the next day and admitted the referees on the night got this decision wrong. However, this is little consolation for the Panthers who still walk away from the match with no competition points.

This sort of issue has plagued the NRL for at least the last couple of seasons. Too many times has a decision by the referee directly impacted the result of a match. There must be consequences for the referees involved, it isn’t enough for the NRL to admit a mistake only for the same referees to make the same mistakes in future games down the track.

Imagine if that decision was made in a grand final. Imagine if the two points that Penrith presumably would have received is the difference between them making the top eight or not. The referees in the game that we love need to be held more accountable for their performances on the field, just as the players are. If a player performs poorly, they are dropped. It should be the same for the referees.

The inconsistency between games is only frustrating fans as well. If you ask any fan the definition of the obstruction rule, you are almost guaranteed to get different answers. On multiple occasions has a try been disallowed for an obstruction and then awarded the next week in an identical situation.

The introduction of “The Bunker” was meant to add some consistency from week to week, however, it has not been what the fans were promised. Added to that, having more than half of the potential tries sent upstairs only aggravates fans more.

Furthermore, the number of penalties blown in a game do not make for exciting footy. Already this season, 323 penalties have been conceded. That is an average of 13.5 per game, which results in a stoppage approximately every six minutes. That does not result in footy that is exciting to watch for the fans.

If the NRL wants to keep their fans, they must address the current situation. Changes must be made. Otherwise, these issues will continue to plague our game and the greatest sport in the world will continue to lose support.

53 COMMENTS

  1. One of the best comments I have read for a long time – spot on. I would add the NRL should also look at the performances of touch judges together with what their duties are. They miss forward passes knock ons off sides every game. If the bunker can rule on a knock on at a contested ball from a kick surely they can judge a forward pass even if it means a few more cameras.

    • Personally, I don’t want the bunker ruling on forward passes. Imagine the time spent on it on just about every try. We would be back in the days when the refs sent absolutely everything upstairs. Then we would be looking at it a thousand times to see what direction the passer’s hands were facing etc.

      I do agree that the linesmen need to be held more accountable. It can be difficult for the ref to rule on a forward pass as they are not generally in the best position to see it, but that is the touchy’s job, they should be where the ball is.

  2. I can’t believe Tony Archer didn’t just keep his mouth shut. He really opened a tin of worms buy claiming fault for what was a call that could have gone either way.
    It’s not a good way for the referee group to start of a long season for themselves.

  3. Constant complaining about the refs is just plain boring…..get over it & move on.

    What about the recent change at Zero Tackle that pushed all the fans away.

    Talk about that disaster….

    • They tried to overdose the ZT oraganism with antibiotics to get rid of the harmful bacteria and lost a lot of probiotic accounts instead.

      Look at what happened in QLD when they introduced cane toads to control beetles that were damaging sugar cane crops. And now the pests have grown to dominate SOO! 😂

      • “overdose the ZT organism…” That’s my first FTS instance since the site returned to the retro format!

  4. I don’t understand, you are complaining about a call not being made and in the same article complaining about too many penalties being called?

    I think THAT is exactly why refs keep getting it wrong is because they are trying not to call every little penalty because they get criticized for that so they are hesitant to make the call on line ball issues like that forward pass. People don’t know what they want and it seems if your team wins they called too many penalties and if they lost they didn’t call enough so what do you expect the refs to do?

    • I noticed that too. I think you are right though, generally a persons opinion of the ref seems to be related to how their team went….

  5. This has nothing to do with the crowds being down this year. The weather has been shocking since the comp started.

  6. The one thing I hate is the referees allowing the defending side, once the ball carrier has had his forward progress stopped, to drag the attacking player over the sideline or back in goal.

    The law states that once a players forward progress is stopped the tackle is made, but still the players is dragged/pushed, sometimes up to 10 metres. Momentum is one thing, dragging is another.

    • Good to see you made it through the ZT rinse cycle. Players being dragged back into their in goal or into touch (LONG after their progress has been halted) is one of the cancers on the game and is responsible for the current epidemic of unpenalised “voluntary tackles”. What the Knights were allowed to do to Alex Johnston (i.e. drag him 10 metres from the field of play back into the in goal after he was already tackled and his progress was halted was ridiculous! There was NO momentum in an existing tackle and once a player is touch while on the ground a tackle is effected. The rule needs to be changed.

      • 100% Agree SSTID.

        Who in NRL headquarters decided it was ok to completely ignore a rule that has been around for 100 years? What authority do they have to override the rule book?

        Players diving to the ground for the involuntary tackle is just so embarrassing for all concerened

        • I remember the first time I ever saw a voluntary tackle when Allan McMahon (Balmain Tigers) fell to the ground to avoid being smashed by “the Redfern Express”, Terry Fahey (South Sydney) circa 1976 – 1980. Fahey didn’t put a finger on McMahon and waited for him to get up, when he didn’t he looked at the referee who penalised McMahon for a voluntary tackle. What’s so hard about that?

          Even Gorden Tallis’ infamous rag dolling of Brett Hodgson in the 2002 SOO series was a joke! The players forward progress was halted, his feet were even off the ground but it was allowed (as many things are in SOO) to give QLD every chance of dominating so the game of RL stays firmly rooted in QLD and the NRL have a national competition.

  7. In my opinion this is an easy fix, if we return to the way the rule used to be adjudicated you’ll take away any grey areas that exist now, once upon a time if the ball was caught in front of where the ball was passed from it was forward, plain and simple, no need to guess whether it came out of the hands backwards and drifted forward, it makes the refs job easier, it makes it easier for the fans to follow and it reduces the chances of errors being made, done…

    • I’m no physics professor but I know enough to tell you that under this criteria 90 percent of tries would be disallowed. Don’t believe me? Get your finger on the pause button and watch try time on fox. A player running at 8 meters per second would need to throw a pass 8 meters behind him to a support player.

  8. Hey ZT. Whats going on with the site. I went off it when you insisted we all only write via Facebook and all these strange people came on writing names and had no intelligent input at all. Just when I sent you to the bin you are back in the original context. So only 5 in the bin. Dont do it again.

  9. So people want less input from the bunker and the refs because it slows the game down, but on the other hand they want a perfectly reffed game where nothing is missed? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Refs are human and they will miss things especially now that the game has sped up.

    Referee calls are never perfect in any sport.

    I’m a roosters fan and i agree the panthers were robbed.

    Less penalties is the way to go, too many are blown and the game is over reffed. This blunders have a way of working themselves out. There will be a blunder that will cost the roosters a match down the track and then another that will help penrith.

    I understand that it could cost them a finals game or whatever, but it has happened in the past and people move on.

    Less interference with the bunker and creating a more free flowing game will ensure that things are missed. I prefer that than a penalty blown every 5-6 minutes and going upstairs every single time a try is scored.

  10. What about the blatant forward pass on the Broncos game against the Cowboys?
    Everyone saw it but, hush hush…………………………………………………………………………

  11. Manly v Roosters GF had such calls , so to say “imagine if it happened in a GF ” is dumb ,cause it has

      • “The Barry” is probably moonlighting as an author on this site now. The Rabbitohs have been losing games due to bad decisions for over 100 years! The Roosters have been benefiting from these calls for just as long and the Broncos and Storm have continually pressured the referees both on and off the field. Bennett is a master at it.

        • ohh the barry – he’s more one eyed than most of the others you could meet.
          the one thing that gets me with the refereeing is the blatant use of the “get out of jail free” penalty.
          A team that has had the ascendancy for a while has trouble getting out of their end, nek minnit they get a raft of penalties to march them back up the field and get them out of trouble. Then as a spectator you look at it and go “well there was a dozen opportunities to blow the penalty earlier in the game, why now?”
          Anyway, refereeing mistakes are a part of the game but 100% agree with others that the touchys need to do more when it comes to policing forward passes and offside.
          Also agree with 5spinksy5 – its either forward or it aint, if the ball is received in front of where it was passed, then its forward.

        • billy boooiyeee!! How was the “Love Boat”? The Eels are flying high in 4th place, let’s hope your return doesn’t jinx anything. Funny how Barry and his mates “Scott the magic Dragon” were predicting a Dragons vs Tigers GF after Round 1. LOL Oh well, IF it happens I guess Jason Taylor will have to buy his ticket to see the game! Hahahahahahahaha

        • have to disagree billy on the forward pass thing. Out of the hands backwards is how it should be. The game is played at a much faster pace then when the previous rule was in place. If the rule was only about where the ball ended up, some of the best tries we have seen ober the past few years would have been disallowed. It is near impossible for the ball not to go forward when a player is at full speed.

        • I know you have a bit of a beef with him but thebarry seems alright. He knows his stuff about the game too. Nothing wrong with being a bit one eyed either, aren’t we all a bit.

        • eels47, come one mate, there are a LOT of us here that no exactly what is what about Barry and the “Gurus”. Not ONE “Guru” could debate me on ANY point I raised or discuss the game in ANY depth. Not ONE could think outside the box or articulate an original opinion. They were a bunch of Lemmings playing follow the leader blindly over the cliff. For goodness sake their most brown nosed Guru (Scott) was predicting a Dragons vs Tigers GF after ONE ROUND of football!

          Mate if you like oysters that’s fine but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck IT’S A DUCK!

        • Mate. There are plenty of valid opinions and discussions over there. Barry and Vincent are actually 2 of the better ones too. You guys don’t get along with them which is fine, but they do generally make some good points, just as you do.

        • No mate, they aren’t. BigJ and steveng (and others) continually display a greater depth of knowledge of the game than either of guys you mention. I can show you posts where Nemo melted under scrutiny from BigJ and resorted to name calling when I cornered him in arguments. The fact of the matter is they are so used to agreeing with everyone else they have forgotten what it is like to have an original opinion of their own. I can show you times when Nemo has done a 180 degree turn on an argument just because an “expert” or “Guru” disagreed with him. He is a jellyfish… spineless.

          I remember the discussions we have had on this site, arguing on the facts without name calling and being prepared to agree to disagree. That isn’t an option for a lemming who only knows how to look at issues with blinkered vision.

          If Wikipedia crashed Nemo wouldn’t be able to source a single fact to support an argument. If he flattered you to gain your good opinion then you have fallen for the oldest game in the book.

        • I am not going to argue with you over my opinion of someone other than to say that my opinion is just that, I don’t need someone to flatter me to get it. I am quite capable of forming it myself.

        • Alright, I will work on “The Barry” project over the weekend and give you examples of all the times he has tripped himself up or gotten exposed or smacked down by others in an argument. I will share this offline if you are interested? Let me know, I don’t want to waste my time if you are not.

        • Losing an argument online doesn’t mean you know nothing about the topic. No need to waste your time, as I said I have my opinion. Please explain to me though why it bugs you so much that it differs to yours.

      • I didn’t run in to Captain Stubing, but did spend a bit of time getting to know Isaac, by the end of the cruise we were good mates.
        Eels had a slight hiccup on Friday night but hoping that was just that. Titans were more desperate for the win, however I hope BA has taken that complacency out of them this week.
        Tigers v Dragons GF – never in a million years, unless there is a GF for the spoon.
        Regardless. souths are going to do it hard this weekend against the neighbours.

        • The Eels “Achilles heel” is Corey Norman. This year he is just like JT for the Cowboys (they won’t win without him). Simples!

        • eels47 ? The Barry knows his stuff ? Arnt you easily led , the Barry’s problem is when the tide goes out follow it , otherwise your left with you mouth open , seriously the blokes a mollusc , if you grafted nate myles head onto DCE’s neck you would have a Barry of a human

        • Oh Nemo and his sea anemone hat, hiding for cover as soon as he was called out on an argument. I think the dress was a bit overstated though.

        • If I was ever privileged to be in its company I’d split it like a mud crab and feed it to the juvenile mullet

  12. That’s sport ,it can’t and never will be perfect with the calls made by the ref. All the technology does is highlight it.
    To say it’s plagued the league for last couple of season is wrong it’s happened since the first whistle was blown.

    • No ones asking for perfection, but it’s hard putting up with linesman who really don’t and can’t do there job , make em useful at least sell advertising on them flags

      • “it’s hard putting up with linesman”

        When they are lineswomen! The times they are a changin’, Bob Dylan was right!

      • So Lia, is there a Mr Trevlis? Also is 74 the year you were born or your actual age? If the latter, Vincent Hugh and Squidward say Hi.

      • Agree about the linesman they do stuff all.
        You now know there will be buckets of chickens on the flags and they will never keep them down, NRL marketing job for you.

  13. I reckon they should let the bunker overrule on everything.

    Mindset towards penalties and decisions is quite odd from the NRL spectrum to be honest.

    • No, the answer it to make Tony Archer a cyborg… “RoboRef”. He never got one wrong and when he did he would admit it and not take crap from any player! Come to think of it, if the bunker is a central decision making unit (not site dependant) why isn’t Tony Archer calling the shots?

      • Because Tony Archer ceebs m9

        No lie fan perspectives on penalties and this whole time concept they got with penalties/bunker is pretty hypocritical lmao

        >5 minutes gone from bunker ruling on a penalty/try – WOT IS THIS
        >Wait 10 minutes for the next half too commence – AWW YEE NO PROBLEM M888

        b r u h

        • “ceebs m9” “AWW YEE NO PROBLEM M888”

          R2-D2 you aren’t making any sense! I need C-3PO to interpret. So confused!!! Can’t speak robot. 🙁

        • But the question still stands:

          Why can fans wait 10 minutes for the next half to commence without complaining?

          Why can’t fans wait 5 minutes without complaining for the correct decision to be made by a ref?

        • The great thing about Rugby League when compared to sports like Rugby Union, Soccer (football) and the NFL is how fluid and free flowing it is. Most fans don’t want to see this changed.

          IMO someone like Tony Archer (who has an eye for the game and the rules but also respects the flow and the spirit of the game) could look at video and come up with a decision without the benefit of multiple replays. Just one look at each angle and decision. Currently the video refs are usually too scared to make the wrong call that they make no call at all, or need to see endless replays.

          The process does not need to be that long. In goal touch judges appeared to work well for the nines making decisions on the spot with the referees and touch judges. I think this in conjunction with video refs (one view of each angle) could speed up the process. There would be many instances (like in the Nines) that there would be a consensus without the need for a video referral.

  14. Spot on 74liatrevlis. That 2013 grand final was a disgraceful performance from Shayne “there has to be an investigation” Hayne. He eventually squared up with Geoff Toovey in the Grand final at the expense of every other decent Manly player, official and supporter. And got away with it scot-free. NRL did Jack Sh%t about it. In fact rewarded him with a world cup appointment. NRL are complicit in all the controversy.

  15. IMO these ‘Howler’ calls or lack of can only come back to the NRL’s referee professional development program, mentally and physically, and the culture of refereeing attitudes they’re constantly evolving into, as I don’t like to believe that NRL referees are a bias bunch; Even though I admit that sometimes I do flirt with the idea! LOL

    I understand that there is ‘human error’ but for it to happen on the epidemic scale that it does, ‘human error’ becomes just a cop out excuse. No doubt some are probably just that, others seem to be automatic responses like constantly referring calls ‘upstairs’ to the video ref and then theres those ones that a just plain WTF!! At what point do the refs, video ref or even the NRL umpire development personnel become held accountable for their actions? Never it seems!! All the while our game is turned into a farce, a laughing stock of a sporting nation, even the fans have had enough and are turning away from the game!

    For a ref to be right there in perfect position to see a blatant call they’re supposedly trained to see and call but don’t, then the NRL need to investigate Why?! The NRL could argue that they do, do performance evaluations and professional development with their refs every week but I argue that if this was being done and the processes were in line with todays faster game then the refereeing would not be in such an abhorrent state as it currently is and we would not see so many ‘howler’ calls every single week. The NRL need to bring the referees theoretical and practical professional development and evaluations into 2017 and constantly re-evaluate those processes every year so as to constantly evolve with the game! And with the technology available out there and all the money the NRL hold onto up their sleeves as well as qualified professionals out there who it seems could probably do a better development job than whats happening at present, there is no excuse for the NRL to have referees executing such poor displays week in week out, year after year! Enough is enough!!

    What makes it worse is that the NRL can hide behind their desks and put out an ‘official statement’, media release or even have one of their own give a brief interview stating only minimal points of ‘fact’ and think that that is sufficient enough to deal with the situation without anyone being accountable! Its unacceptable and shameful to say the least! No wonder the refs refer all try/in goal decisions ‘upstairs’ because it eliminates their on-field accountability and any stuff-up by the video ref in the bunker then the NRL will sweep it under the carpet with a media release of some sort that suits the NRL the following week.

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