23 Aug 40/20 Vision with Scott Prince
I pity referees. They are at the centre of a perfect storm.
On one side there are players whose season and sometimes careers hang on the blow of a whistle. On another side are the passionate faces of the fans booing, hissing, applauding those same decisions.
And on yet another side is a bank of technology that now scrutinises the finest detail of every one of those decisions.
In the centre – friendless – is the referee. Whichever way his arm points someone is going to be critical.
This years there has been a tidal wave of refereeing controversies. Over the past week high profile players Jarryd Hayne and Johnathan Thurston have put the blowtorch on the men in the middle after their teams were at the losing end of games and decisions.
Amid all the gnashing of teeth and angst, we have to remember a couple of things, referees are trying their hardest to do the best and fairest job possible. And the game’s administrators, especially over the past decade, have constantly been resourcing referees to make sure we have the best trained people in the middle. They have also been regularly canvassing the game’s stakeholders over rule changes and how rules should be policed.
Central to this issue are four main points:
- You have to have a referee to have a game of footy;
- Referees are human and, sometimes, will make mistakes;
- The referee must be treated with respect – if not we have chaos on-field;
- Remember, although the stakes can be high, it is a game.
Most weeks I am involved in sport with my two daughters. The one thing I try to instil in them is to have respect for whoever is referee/umpire/judge.
I think it is fantastic that most sports now at junior level, and especially rugby league, have a real focus on appropriate behaviour by players AND PARENTS towards officials.
The statistics show that plenty of people sign up to become match officials in all our sports, but the biggest problem is retention. The majority hand back the whistle because of the treatment they receive.
Abusive players, parents and supporters just make the task unenjoyable.
Yet how many of these hecklers are prepared to step in. Remember my first point, without a match official there is no game.
So the education must continue and increase at junior level so that we have more people coming through as match officials and therefore the quality at the top will improve.
As a player I was more vocal than most towards referees. In my role as captain I was constantly questioning decisions and trying to get an edge for my team. However, I am proud to say, that those discussions were always held in a respectful manner. Even in the heat of battle I would treat the referee with respect.
I do smile at most of the current coaches who are not backwards in their criticism of referees, because they were no different as players. According to them their team always got the wrong end of the ref’s call.
To a degree there has to be cultural change within those who coach at the senior NRL level. They are the ones who must show the most respect towards referees. It is then that the whole game will follow suit, more refs will stay in the game and the quality at the top will improve.
I have no time for illegal drug cheats and so am an advocate for the work that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) does.
However the length of time, the innuendoes, the questions, the sheer frustrations of the current investigation raises some serious issues over how ASADA operates.
The last thing the Titans needed after an ordinary season was an ASADA cloud over Luke Douglas and Albert Kelly.
For the Gold Coast club, the sooner 2014 is behind them the better.