Before launching into the following criticism of referees, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s often a thankless task. Without match officials there would be no game. They should be respected and, in the case of young referees in local leagues, protected.
However, the NRL places its referees above certain criticism from coaches and players. There can be no question of a whistle blower’s integrity. But these people have chosen to be professionals. They have one of the most important jobs in the game and, as well-paid professionals, shouldn’t be above questioning
And the word integrity is very important to the NRL. We have an Integrity unit. Its job is to protect the game. It defines acceptable standards for key participants in the NRL. You expect that the standards of an organisation will be maintained consistently.
Well what does the word Integrity mean?
It means: honesty, decency, fairness, truthfulness and trustworthiness.
Let’s consider the meaning from a standards perspective. Following Thursday night’s game, and a number of the games every weekend, I believe some questions demand answers.
* Trustworthiness: How many of us don’t trust that the match officials will come up with the correct decision? Why do we feel that way? Is it due to a lack of consistency?
* Fairness: Do we believe that both teams are adjudicated in the same way in each match? How many times do we see a complete change in penalty fortunes after half time?
* Honesty: Are teams being officiated for their actual play in matches or are referees going into matches with pre-conceived ideas via tip sheets?
* Decency: Is it appropriate to be disadvantaging some teams for ten minutes for the most innocuous infringements? Without excusing teams pushing the boundaries of rules, nearly every match seems to feature the Sin Bin and there is always debate surrounding its application.
* Truthfulness: Are officials being true to the rules for all teams, or are we witnessing inconsistencies in decisions – between rounds, within a single match?
Based on the breakdown of the meaning of integrity, I honestly believe that there is a question mark on the integrity of officiating. This is not an accusation of corruption or bias (let me be clear on that) but a question of standards.
Decent, hardworking fans are being treated as blind fools and it is just not fair. Coaches are punished for expressing opinions that many fans share. The reaction of my workmates who support many different teams before last Thursday’s game typifies the feelings of those I know who love the game.
“Watch out Shelley, you’ve got Klein!” And so, we were “Kleined”. Simply put, his officiating often leaves supporters scratching their heads after matches.
It will be another team of supporters next week, and the week after that.
This is not meant to be an individualised or targeted attack on Ashley Klein. Rather, the focus on Ashley Klein’s standards as a referee take on increasing importance with his appointment to the Jewel game in the NRL crown – Origin.
The NRL’s refuse to even contemplate a problem with the referees and now notably rate a referee who seems to make a bagful of questionable calls on a weekly basis as worthy of Origin footy. This simply means the problems, mistakes and inconsistencies will continue. Ultimately, supporters such as myself will continue to question the integrity of match officials when we should be acknowledging what is undoubtedly a tough gig.
Rugby League is a great game. It can be better.
On my team, I think we, including the players and coaches, all need a big hug. I know the boys are trying, I know they are hurting, I know they have lost confidence and I know they care. But ….. there are some things I did not like one bit against the Broncos but no negatives from me on my team. It will not help, in fact it will do the opposite. I will leave it to the coaches, management and players to fix. I trust they will.
So what did I like?
* Team spirit:
At 12-0 I doubted it. I feared a trouncing. The willingness to hang in and try to get back into the game gives me hope. Hope that when this season from hell is over we will be battered, bruised, hurt and wounded but not defeated.
* Leadership- Manu Mau:
I listened all week about who was going to take control of this team. Who it was being anointed too. Control can be given to anyone but it can only be taken and used by those with some intestinal fortitude. Manu Mau is the type of person I want in the trenches next to me. No greater praise I can give than that.
* Resilience- I have zero integrity if I don’t write this. He disappointed me immensely against the Warriors but Corey Norman made some good choices during the week. He deserves much credit for it. Many players would sulk and have sulked in similar positions. He turned up, played a position he openly does not like and tried really hard. Unfortunately, we only looked like scoring when he ran an attacking move so this was nothing to celebrate for me. Last Thursday, Corey showed why in fact I really enjoy watching him play. Talent like that is very hard to replace.
I know two things about Rd 13.
1) My team will show up and try their guts out.
2) My family and I will be there supporting them. We know no other way.