Crouch, touch, pause, ENRAGED!

09 March 2010 | 12:00 - By SBS Sport

Rugby Union referees have as much influence on matches as each of the players on the field, and it's not good for the game, writes Tom Findlay.


If players can't understand the rules of rugby, then fans have little chance of doing so [GETTY]

I am a liar. For years I have been telling all and sundry I am a self-confessed sport tragic. 'You name it, I follow it', I proudly proclaimed to anyone who would listen.

But last weekend my true colours were revealed. I am a fraud. Hell, I'm paid to follow sport and offer some sort of insightful analysis on it, but for the life of me and with my wife as witness, I simply could not see out the Brumbies/Lions Super 14 match – and by all reports this was one of the better games so far this season.

That I preferred to watch a taped episode of So You Think You Can Dance – a heads up to said spouse for that one – is neither here nor there, but perhaps is an indictment on the state of a code that once professed to be 'the running game'. No less, 'the game they play in heaven'.

At this point it's worth noting that the Waratahs tried to play the running game during their recent two-match tour of South Africa and were suitably spanked. They resorted to the more en vogue penalty-milking, point-scrounging game on the weekend, got the result, then were fittingly booed off the park by their own fans. I know, I could hear the chorus of discontent from my balcony as Bonny Lithgow delivered a similarly scathing verdict to one of the aspiring Dance contestants.

Herein lies my point: rugby has become so bogged down in its own rules, and what's more the way a referee interprets them, that a game which was once the domain of the fleet of foot, the fast of hand and the sharp of wit, has become as exciting as a State Dept Recovery notice.

During the Brumbies match referee Steve Walsh became fed up with the Lions scrum infringements so he awarded a penalty try. I thought it ironic that the first points of the match came from a referee, who, by sheer virtue of the number of infringement rules at the breakdown and in the scrum, had inadvertently become the most important person on the field.

The ref dictates the play and, with so many things 'open to the referee's interpretation', governs which way the momentum will sway and what is right and wrong. I saw more close-ups of Walsh during 20 minutes of the Brumbies match than I've seen of the referee in an entire NRL season. By the way, this was a match that featured some of the country's best rugby talent, such as Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom.

Sure, I've got thoughts on what the code can do to fix this mess, (for a start reduce the value of penalty kicks) but that rant is for another blog.

Suffice to say, the game's arbiters are making it very difficult for sport geeks like me to lay any sort of claim to being a 'purest' when I can't even stomach an entire match.

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Comments (5)

10 Mar 2010 13:20 AEST


From: Sydney

The game is a joke because..... one of the games the other night, they wasted six minutes setting and re-setting the scrum because something wasn't right. Then eventually the ref gave up and just blew a penalty which no-one understood why it was given (aside from preventing spectators blowing their brains out with boredom).

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10 Mar 2010 7:13 AEST


From: Sydney


"and by all reports this was one of the better games so far this season". Wrong! I've not read a single report stating this. It is the general concensus this was a dour game.

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09 Mar 2010 21:15 AEST


From: Chile

Rugby ain't dead

Really a Lions vs Brumbies one of the better games this season, the Lions wouldn't have finished above 10th place in the last five years and that's being conservative. What about the good that had been so far like the Reds beating the Crusaders and Cooper scoring a Qld record! Or them coming from behind to best the Chiefs over the weekend last years finalists. Not all is bad you only have to look to the domestic comps in Europe and South Africa to realize this. Or the success of Kenya on the 7's circuit. And honestly you couldn't pay me to watch dancing with the stars I'd even choose soccer over that.

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09 Mar 2010 20:00 AEST


From: Sydney

RU still the greatest game of all

The biggest problem with RU is that they are trying to change the rules so they will capture more of an audience eg RL supporters. They should not do this as the game is unique in itself and those who have played the game appreciates the skills required. Therefore the game should focus on getting more people playing it rather than try to please some casual observers. This way it will never die.

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09 Mar 2010 19:30 AEST


From: Sydney

Spot on

Well said Tommy boy, couldn't agree with you more. Well to be fair I was not watching a repeat of Dancing with the Stars- rather taking in an old episode of Entourage.

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