Over recent days, recent weeks, and many, many years, referees and officials in the National Rugby League (NRL) have been criticised from pillar to post from supporters, journalists, commentators, former players, and even from their own employers, the NRL.
They have been criticised for not policing the ruck and play-the-ball correctly.
They have been criticised for not ruling on the obstruction rule correctly, likewise on the laws surrounding the professional foul, with the referees (although giving penalties to the non-offending team) missing many infractions of professional fouls, and not punishing the offending player(s) with 10 minutes in the sin bin.
They have been criticised for not ruling on the offside rule correctly, whether that is a defensive team being within the 10 metres, jumping off their imaginary line too early, or their markers not being square, to whether the attacking team is offside from a kick, to whether an offside player is within in 10 metres of the ball, regardless of whether they were involved in the play or not.
They have also been criticised for not protecting the playmakers, the stars of rugby league, and when incidents like the high tackle/dangerous contact to the head/neck by Canberra Raiders forward Sia Soliola on Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater, the referees, including the bunker, don’t feel they have the ability to send-off a player for any incidence of serious foul play because of the way they are coached.
Did I say coached?
Yes, coached. The referees in the NRL are coached, and train together every single week, and are assessed every single week, both individually and as a group.
They also have a mandate, as delivered by their coaching staff to promote a certain style of play, a free-flowing game of rugby league, keeping within some set guidelines, and are only allowed a small margin of error to move within achieving their key performance indicators (KPIs).
However, is it the best thing in the world for officials in any sport to be constantly and consistently coached in what they are doing?
My answer to this question is an emphatic NO!
The referees in the NRL, as well as in other sports cannot be coached.
Officiating is an instinctive activity requiring interpretation of the laws in which the sport in question is played under.
Everyone has a different interpretation of different laws of the game in any sport, and it is up to that official, and that official alone to officiate the game in question in the best way that he or she best sees fit.
You cannot tell someone how they should referee a game of rugby league, or a match of any other sport because the laws of any sport requires self interpretation.
Any organisation in any field that thinks they can tell someone, or teach someone how they should do something, and say this is the way they must do it will always fail in the end.
You can’t teach someone how they should commentate, you can’t teach someone how to write an article, you can’t teach someone how they should play a particular sport, or coach a particular sport, and you certainly can’t teach an official in how they should referee a game.
You can teach someone the rules of their job, or the laws of the game that they are playing or officiating, but you cannot tell them how they should operate within these guidelines. This is always up for interpretation, and it is up to the individual themselves to decide how they should operate within this space.
However, in the case of Sia Soliola, the damage has already been done!
There is no chance in the world that Soliola is going to receive a fair and just hearing at the NRL Judiciary because of all the public slander the incident has received from nearly all parties, which has bordered on defamation of Soliola, his club, and most importantly his family.
I hope my article gives you an insight as to how officiating in sport, among other things, should always be approached and conducted in.