My overriding impression after a weekend of the WCC is that poor
and - more importantly perhaps - inconsistent refereeing is
in danger of making the whole competition into a farce. The
performance of Campbell last night was nothing short of abysmal.
Now, I have a lot of time for referees - I believe that they do
a difficult job as well as can be expected. Their job has been
made easier in SL with the introduction of the Video Ref but
it is still expecting a lot of one man to see all that is
happening. The linesmen help of course but I think that those
people who criticise referees often do so without taking into
account the difficulties of the job.
The difference - Stevo tells us - between the Oz and European
game is that the Aussies are faster in defence and yes, that has
been apparent in some, but by no means all, games. There was
discussion during yesterday's game about the play-of-the-ball
situation. The Aussies don't play the ball properly, their
rules apparently don't require them to. This means that they are
going to be a little (not enough to make a difference) quicker
off the mark but it also means - more importantly - that they can
conserve some energy. It is apparent that in this competition you can
play the ball any way you like despite the fact that it is supposed to
be played under international rules which, I understand, require
the ball to be played by the foot and not just rolled back la
The other inconsistency - and this I believe to be the real reason
for the disastrous results from a European point of view - is in
the other area of play-of-the-ball, namely laying on. Anyone
watching the Aussie SL highlights this year cannot help but notice
that, compared with Europe, the Aussies take an age to get off the
man after a tackle giving the defence a chance to re-form. You
sometimes expect somebody to come on and serve them a drink while
they wait, they take so long. The Europeans are not allowed to do
this and severe penalising when the rules were first tightened up
has produced the Pavlovian response that when told to "gerraway"
they do. The Aussies don't.
Now, we have to have consistency in applying the rules in this
competition. I know the Aussies will say I'm a whinging pom
(has anyone actually found a race which whinges as much as the
Aussies BTW?!). This isn't sour grapes but I sincerely believe
that if we are to have a competition of this kind on a regular
basis - and the idea is brilliant - then it has to be fair to
both sides. The play-of-the-ball rules have to be consistently
applied. Either you can lay on or you can't. So far, only London
with all their Aussies quickly adapted to the more casual style
and Brisbane's game was severely hampered as a result.
If one side is laying on giving their defence a chance to re-form
then it should be no surprise that if the other side aren't that
the laying on side has the stronger defence. I'm not going to
suggest that this would have changed certain results but in the
closer games I believe it was a major factor.
Regarding last night's game, on current form you really wouldn't
expect Penrith to stay with the Bulls. And they didn't. They
won because of Mr Campbell's failure to send the Penrith captain
to the bin after two high tackles in as many minutes and his
operating it appeared to the instruction "let the Aussies do what
they want, they're superior to us". His was the worst out of
a very poor set of performances by referees on both sides of
the equator. It seems incomprehensible to me that the organisers
never considered this aspect, that they just let the refs officiate
the same set of rules in different ways!
I'll give it one more week then forget it. There's the Lions to
watch and in July I've got the Tour de France :-) I was going to
go to the UK to catch some of the July games but unless they get
these rule inconsistencies sorted out in a hurry then it's best
to ignore it and it will go away. Which is a shame. The idea
is excellent but with such poor implementation it looks set to
become just another aberration in RL history, like all those
strange competitions you can read about in the yearbook...
P.S. I always thought that Oz commentator was quite good.
Certainly entertaining, but then he got all patronising
as though Wigan's win was in some way unexpected and
implying that the Aussies lost it. They were thoroughly
beaten by the one side you'd expect to do the business in
this competition. Good on ya Wigan!