Obstruction is a dirty word at the moment and there seems to be mass confusion among fans, players and it seems the officials.
But it didn’t have to be this way.
I take you back to last year when the NRL introduced the “no contact rule” that was as black and white as a zebra on TV in the 50’s. Basically, if the decoy runner made contact with any defender as he ran through, it was considered an obstruction.
But what happened? Coaches (and News) complained until the NRL “reacted” and reverted to an interpretation-based rule:
“Having examined the application of the rule over the opening four rounds we believe an adjustment was necessary to provide a level of discretion for the video referee in the review process,” NRL’s director of operations Nathan McGuirk said at the time.
“… (it) ensures that tries that would have been fairly scored will be awarded.”
But the rule was simple: any attacking player that makes contact with a player in the defensive line was at fault and it was up to the decoy runner to avoid contact. When “fair tries” were being called back, the coaches joined forces in slamming the changes (although they never did the same to lifting tackles, crushers, prowlers, chicken wings, torso tries and basically any other ordinary rule or grubby tactic) because their basic game plan of sending decoys was being compromised.
There was a fantastic debate on the Sunday Footy Show between Andrew Johns (against) and Brad Fittler (for), with Johns taking the angle that the rule meant decoy plays were effectively dead and Fittler taking the view that it would make coaches and players think more creatively about attacking structures.
Fittler went on to talk about his experience as the Roosters head coach, and seeing halfbacks in the juniors using decoy runners as their only attacking option — decrying the decoy play as the reason for a lack of attacking ability coming through the ranks.
I was of the view then — and I still am now — that the black and white rule (which cost my team the Storm a try) was needed. And as we’ve seen over the weekend, the obstruction rule, when left to interpretation, is a minefield in which any errors made will force the game to explode.
If there’s no black and white rule though, perhaps the bunker (as mentioned by Todd Greenberg) is the way to go with the same three or four experts watching every game, every week in an effort to get some consistency.
If there is a perfect rule for obstruction then let’s bring it in ASAP, but there isn’t. At least the black and white rule left the game with a yes or no answer, clear as day — and the crises we have at the moment might not exist.
Round Seven Takeaways
Souths v Bulldogs
Egg on my face when it comes to the Bulldogs, they just keep doing what needs to be done by the slightest of margins.
Sea Eagles v Cowboys
Cruel déjà vu for the Cowboys, but defensive lapses cost them more.
Knights v Broncos
I didn’t see this coming. Knights looked awful and I can see a spoon being handed to Wayne Bennett for the first time.
Dragons v Warriors
Not doom but more gloom for Warriors.
Sharks v Roosters
Roosters win? Normal order resumes, but the rust is still there.
Raiders v Storm
Contrary to popular belief the video ref got the Waqa no try 100 per cent correct. But hysteria is better than accepting the truth.
Eels v Tigers
Afternoon footy, 50,000 fans and a fantastic game. It doesn’t get any better.
Panthers v Titans