The recent NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and Sydney Roosters has further highlighted the biggest issue that is hurting the game of rugby league, and consequently turning fans away.
On Saturday night, the Panthers were holding onto a slim 12-10 lead with just under 10 minutes to go, before a Michael Gordon try in the 73rd minute gave the Roosters the lead, which would eventuate in a Roosters victory. However, the try came after a forward pass from Latrell Mitchell to winger Daniel Tupou who then put the kick through for Gordon who scored on the play. The NRL Referees Boss Tony Archer came out the next day and admitted the referees on the night got this decision wrong. However, this is little consolation for the Panthers who still walk away from the match with no competition points.
This sort of issue has plagued the NRL for at least the last couple of seasons. Too many times has a decision by the referee directly impacted the result of a match. There must be consequences for the referees involved, it isn’t enough for the NRL to admit a mistake only for the same referees to make the same mistakes in future games down the track.
Imagine if that decision was made in a grand final. Imagine if the two points that Penrith presumably would have received is the difference between them making the top eight or not. The referees in the game that we love need to be held more accountable for their performances on the field, just as the players are. If a player performs poorly, they are dropped. It should be the same for the referees.
The inconsistency between games is only frustrating fans as well. If you ask any fan the definition of the obstruction rule, you are almost guaranteed to get different answers. On multiple occasions has a try been disallowed for an obstruction and then awarded the next week in an identical situation.
The introduction of The Bunker was meant to add some consistency from week to week, however it has not been what the fans were promised. Added to that, having more than half of the potential tries sent upstairs only aggravates fans more.
Furthermore, the amount of penalties blown in a game does not make for exciting footy. Already this season, 323 penalties have been conceded. That is an average of 13.5 per game, which results in a stoppage approximately every six minutes. That does not result in footy that is exciting to watch for the fans.
If the NRL wants to keep their fans, they must address the current situation. Changes must be made. Otherwise, these issues will continue to plague our game and the greatest sport in the world will continue to lose support.