The annual referees crisis is projected to arrive in coming days. A warning has been issued after a number of typical precursors were detected in recent weeks, such as it’s footy season, and it’s been over 12 months since the last one.
This year’s crisis has been reportedly delayed due to a series of irregularities surrounding the referees, including accuracy of decision-making and an unseasonably high number of coaches taking responsibility for their own losses.
However, a potential super-cell of flaming hyperbole is forecast to make landfall in coming weeks, with the conclusion of Origin combining with a recent spate of boof-headed clangers to create a once-yearly smear event.
Despite the crisis loitering at its innocuous seminal stage – traditionally only harmful to Ricky Stuart – rugby league consumers are warned the game stands one Cronulla-affecting blunder away from a double page spread in Monday’s tabloids.
Recent weeks have seen a series of controversial calls hidden by saturation Origin coverage, with Bunker blunders, concussion rorts, play continuing around the semi-dead and confusion over complicated stuff like rules.
In addition, turmoil has reigned over the appropriate use of the sin bin and send off rules, with referees in agreement that Charles Manson’s body of work is “penalty and on-report sufficient”.
Prior to this, 2019 witnessed a blissful lack of referee bashing, soaring hopes this could be the first season without Crisis Merchants bleating about “the worst refereeing I’ve seen in the last 80 minutes.”
Much of the improvement was credited to new boss Graham Annesley, who’s weekly review of contentious decisions not only provided context to decisions, but also alleviated some of the mystery around what exactly Henry Perenara sees.
But with another annual crisis now looming, it appears Annesley will be the latest boss regrettably labelled by tabloids as “the only the man for the job” right up to the moment he took the job.
Just to quickly recap, whether it’s the ruck, the 10 metres, the scrums, the line calls, the eye-gouging or the ball control, rugby league lore deems it’s the ref’s fault if it negatively affects your team.
This aligns with the referees charter for NRL competition, which is to continually divert attention through incompetence in case another salary cap saga breaks.
The referees’ predicament is one that no amount of flawless games can repair. In fact, redemption can only be achieved by giving up the drink and earning Origin selection, and we know that’s impossible as you can’t be a ref without alcohol.
It naturally raises the question; are referees forever destined to be the unfortunate pawns in a game that necessitates a villain due to the binary nature of sport and more largely our modern antagonistic existence, or are they just shit?
Can they ever get the balance right between ‘letting the boys play’ while cleaning up the ruck and enforcing black and white laws using interpretation and common sense while not being distracted by escorts?
One radical notion emerging in recent times is that referees could possibly be real people with human flaws.
To the NRL’s credit, it has attempted to address this by splashing $2m on The Bunker to stymie these humans who make errors, but this has experienced glitches due to its technology requiring humans who make errors.
In the meantime, the administration is working on a robot that can return 99.998% accuracy in all facets of decision-making, with the release pending the creation of software capable of understanding Paul Gallen in a mouth guard.
This new referee cyborg will be known as The Sutton 2020, not to designate the year of release, but the number of brothers currently in the ranks.
And if this fails? Bring back John Quayle, who can sort it out with Tina Turner. Or more realistically, just let the internet referee games.