Rugby league referees have never been so fit, have never been treated so professionally, have never had more technological help….and have never been so bad.

Greg Cary

Greg Cary

Sports writer

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The game has a serious problem and, as always, the NRL is leading from behind.

Both Souths’ coach Michael Maguire and Parramatta’s Brad Arthur say they no longer know what the obstruction rule is. They aren’t alone. The decisions being made by referees (on field and in the video room) are so inconsistent that they are confusing players and fans alike.

Results are being affected – as is credibility.

The Cowboys want explanations about recent decisions that have proved costly in more ways than one. They claim members are starting to hand in their cards because of perceived injustices. When you remember they lost an elimination final on the seventh tackle last year, it is a level of frustration you can totally understand .

Broncos fans know the feeling after their brave (and unlucky) loss to Souths. And it’s not just die-hard supporters rebelling. Many people who simply love the game are being alienated by the quality of decision making.

There are many factors at work, including some of the rules themselves, but the key to it all is the available technology. What was meant to make the game better (and refereeing easier) has, in fact, created unintended consequences that have robbed refs of their confidence which, in turn, is leading to many of the mistakes.

Referees are second guessing themselves and in sport, or life, that is never a good thing. They must act instinctively but their instincts are too often proven to be wrong by the technology. This then tends to make them rely upon it even more. The more you use it, however, the more likely you are to find the kinds of errors that once passed without us even knowing. Or caring.

Call it the “the technology paradox” if you like but there is no easy way out – other than to limit the use of technology.

Fans and players alike have always recognised that mistakes are made on the field but these days with the benefit of slow-motion replays, freeze frames and the rest we expect perfection and, in its absence, bag the refs.

It’s is a wider problem than that and they are as much a victim as the game itself. This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency.