League Express and Rugby League World reporter Aaron Bower gives an insight into what’s in store for fans with a new rule change in 2015..
Wednesday night was a night I’d been looking forward to for some time. After the Warrington v Widnes game was postponed on 28 December, the rearranged fixture was one I’d had penciled in for quite some time.
And, despite it being a pretty scrappy game in terms of the quality on show – which is understandable, given that it was the first game of pre-season for both sides – there were a few talking points and incidents for fans to digest.
It’s rare you see yellow cards in a friendly game, but the first hour of Warrington’s 16-0 victory on Wednesday saw referee James Child issue three yellows – all to Widnes Vikings players.
There has been a bit of on outburst on social media regarding the decisions, and to be perfectly honest, Child seems to be an easy target for some Rugby League fans. Some fans are unhappy that the sin-binnings occurred in a friendly, whilst some are concerned that there were yellow cards at all for decisions which, to be perfectly honest, may have escaped with just a penalty last season.
For anyone who studied the new rule changes which are being implemented this season though, those decisions on Wednesday night will not have come as much of a surprise. TotalRL.com ran an article on the new rule changes (which you can find here) last month, and the extract regarding sin-binning makes for interesting reading:
The number of main areas in which sin-binning is deemed to be the appropriate course of action is to be changed from seven to four with the aim of helping referees impose immediate real-time sanctions by reducing the number of ‘on report’ decisions.
Essentially, that means the rules have been tightened in order to aid referees make snap decisions on the spot. After all, the disciplinary process attracted plenty of criticism last year for its (supposed) inconsistency, so surely having less decisions being referred to a panel is a good thing?
What it means is we’re going to see fewer decisions being placed on report this year, and we’re going to see referees being more decisive when it comes to calls that may have been “50/50” in 2014. The sin-binning of Manase Manuokafoa was a fine example of that last night; he was shown a yellow card for a late hit on Gareth O’Brien after a kick – something which may have simply been placed on report last season.
It’s fantastic to see referees being encouraged to make more decisions on the field, because it will help the overall game to develop with an understanding that foul play will not be tolerated.
Fans have been known to vent their anger at the ‘on report’ procedure in the past, so reducing the amount of decisions that go through that system is again, another thing that will hugely benefit the game in the long run. Sure, there may be more yellow cards, but it won’t be a drastic amount, at least after teams have realized they’ll have to clean up their act as the season goes on.
Some people were concerned that the yellow cards were being handed out in a friendly, too. In support of the referee again, it’s vital that these new rule changes are implemented in trial games. Imagine a scenario where we get to the opening weekend of the season and referees – who had officiated games under the old system for three, four or even five games – suddenly change tact? It makes no sense, and again, James Child was absolutely spot on last night with how he refereed the game.
There were 38 yellow cards across Super League in 2014, with four teams only picking up a solitary card. That will no doubt increase in 2015 – but it’s no bad thing. Referees are doing what we’ve wanted them to do all along: be more decisive and authoritative. If we start criticizing them for that, then there really is no hope moving forward.