League Express editor Martyn Sadler speaks to the RFL’s Match Officials Director Steve Ganson about a controversial penalty that was awarded during last Thursday’s Super League clash between Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils.
The most controversial moment of the weekend had absolutely nothing to do with the World Club Series.
Instead, it came last Thursday night, when Josh Jones gained a penalty for Salford Red Devils when he threw a ball from dummy-half at the prone figure of Danny Brough, who had just tackled a Salford player and was lying at the side of the ruck, without yet having got to his feet.
Brough was technically in an offside position, and, when Jones threw the ball at him, referee James Child awarded Salford a penalty.
The TV commentators suggested that Jones’ action was against the spirit of the game, and there were plenty of observers who apparently agreed with him.
They included RFL CEO Nigel Wood, who took part in a Twitter question and answer session on Friday and was asked by one participant: “Can we have a rule about milking penalties, I.e the Brough incident last night?
Nigel replied to the following effect: “Existing rules provide Refs with powers they need. Antics such as last night are a blight on the game and we will deal with.”
So it was obvious that the RFL boss wasn’t happy with what he had seen, and most Rugby League fans agreed with him.
But the RFL’s Director of Referees Steve Ganson wasn’t necessarily one of them. Steve spoke to me at the weekend, and he defended referee Child’s decision.
“The situation is that technically he (Brough) is an offside player,” Steve told me.
“We constantly review matters, but to change that rule we have to consider the ramifications. I will be discussing it with the RFL executive.
“The other option is to decide if the offside was accidental.
“But in that case you’d be asking the referee to decide on both counts. Is he deliberately offside? And did the Salford player pass the ball deliberately to an offside player?
“The NRL has the same issue, and they have no satisfactory solution. Once the tackle is complete the defender must clear the ruck.
“I know it’s a tough penalty. But my question is, what is the alternative? You are asking the referee to determine whether it was accidental or deliberate.”
And Ganson has consulted widely on this very issue, including his counterpart at the NRL.
“Tony Archer said in the NRL that it’s straightforward, he (Brough) was offside. He has to be square at marker or ten metres behind the ball. It is a tough penalty, but it’s the right decision.
“I spoke to Shane Flanagan about it, and he had a straightforward view, telling me that Cameron Smith does this in the NRL, but other clubs are aware of that tactic and don’t allow themselves to be in a position to allow him to do it.
“Shane had no problems with the decision. At the moment the rule encourages players to get away from the ruck and get back onside. Do we really want to see players clogging up the ruck and slowing down the play-the-ball?
“I don’t think so. So let’s not rush into making decisions that would result in precisely that.”
A full review of all the weekend’s Rugby League action can be found in the new edition of League Express, which is in the shops this morning.