Opinion: Take obstruction away from video referees

Rugby League on both sides of the world seems to be dogged by controversy about video referees.

And one issue that crops up again and again is that of obstruction, and whether a try should be awarded when there is a suspicion of obstruction.

In Australia last weekend there was a clear injustice, when North Queensland were narrowly beaten by Manly, who had the advantage of a try being awarded when virtually everyone thought it would be disallowed because there had been an obstruction in the build up.

On the other hand, Hull Kingston Rovers felt very harshly treated Thursday of last week, with a whole series of video-refereeing decisions going against them in situations where, if the game hadn’t been a TV game, several of those tried would have surely stood.

Hull KR Chairman Neil Hudgell said he has never felt so angry about a game, even though the Robins won it.

Who knows how he would have felt if it had been the black and whites securing that late victory.

Of the tries that were turned down, the most questionable for me was the one scored by Kevin Larroyer after 52 minutes.

That try appeared to be turned down because of an apparent shoulder charge by Travis Burns on Jacob Miller when neither player had the ball.

To me, it looked like a collision of two players who were both running into the same space, and the penalty against Burns looked very harsh indeed.

As far as I’m concerned, this really brings into question the whole rationale of having the video referee operating at televised games.

The original idea of the video referee was to check on whether the ball had been grounded properly in the act of scoring a try, or whether a player had stepped on the touchline on his way to the tryline.

But now we have the video referee adjudicating on whether a defender who has been distracted by a dummy runner really was prevented from making a tackle.

The video referee is effectively making a call on whether he believes the defending player is a good defender or not.

In other words there is far too much subjectivity creeping into video refereeing decisions, and it is making everyone dissatisfied, not just the Hull KR Chairman.

The question of obstruction should surely be left to the referee on the field. If he calls it, then it’s a penalty. If he doesn’t, then it isn’t.

And let’s stop forensically analysing every decision. I’m sick to death of coaches criticising referees’ decisions, and, particularly in Australia, of some wonderful matches having their post-game analysis concentrated simply on whether a series of video decisions were right or wrong.

If it were down to me I would abandon the video referee altogether. I suppose that is unlikely to happen, but if so I would severely restrict its scope.

Let’s get back to enjoying the game, and end the practice of making video-refereeing decision a central part of a televised Rugby League game.

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