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I didn't see it, and surely neither could you


Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Andrew Webster

You be the judge: Sisa Waqa's controversial no-try in Sunday's loss to the Raiders.

You be the judge: Sisa Waqa's controversial no-try in Sunday's loss to the Raiders.

A confession: I didn’t watch the Raiders versus Storm match on Sunday afternoon, so I didn’t see the Sisa Waqa “no try” as it happened. Or as it happened in Channel Nine Land.

Reading through the newspapers on Monday morning, you would’ve thought the Melbourne Storm had been cheated and cheated in biblical proportions.

“Bellamy blows up as Storm front latest ref controversy,” said the headline in the Herald.

The Daily Telegraph was typically restrained: “STOP THE HOWLERS: Bellamy’s plea after referees blow it again”.

Bloody oath.

This is a joke, Todd Greenberg. This is a joke, Tony Archer. This is joke, Dave Smith. This is a joke, John Grant. This is a joke, Jesus. This is a joke, rugby league.

Desperate to see this refereeing debacle - Immortals Andrew Johns and Wally Lewis were “stunned”, by the way - with my own eyes, I jumped online to view the carnage.

The first replay, in real time, showed Waqa scoring in the corner before bouncing across and into touch.

To the naked eye, even a semi-clothed one, it was a certain try. Surely he got it down.

But then the video refs started looking at it, over and over. Evidently, they weren’t so sure the ball brushed the line when Waqa first hit the ground.

“The ball hits the line,” declared Joey, incredulous. “It’s on the line there.”

I love ya like a brother, Joey, but I am not so sure.

In fact, I’ll make a case to say that it didn’t. That the ball didn’t touch the line first, and that Waqa’s forearm did. Or, at the very least, I'll say I don't know. I can’t tell the difference.

I will also go so far to say that “howlers” and “diabolical” refereeing decisions did not cost the Melbourne Storm the match.

“Fans are a bit disillusioned,” said Storm coach Craig Bellamy afterwards. “Everyone is sick of games being decided on controversial calls.”

The match wasn’t decided on a controversial call. It was decided when a big unit called Paul Vaughan danced like an extra in a Baz Luhrmann film around tired Melbourne defenders and bustled over in the dying minutes.

The Waqa denial wasn’t a howler, just like the decision to award a Storm try against the Dragons a week ago, when the ball was played about a nanosecond after the siren, wasn't a howler either.

The Kieran Foran try against the Cowboys, after Jamie Buhrer had held back defenders, now that’s a howler. Even Geoff Toovey conceded as much.

Are they happening every match, costing every team victory? You know the answer, cowboy.

Rugby league is a game of inches, like just about every other sport. We examine and probe and critique every second - and pixel - of it. Let that always be the case, or some of us will have to find an honest way of earning a buck.

The outrage shown over the Waqa “no try” in no way reflects how close the call was, but is typical of the hysteria the game feeds off.

If you could see that the ball definitely touches the try line, in fading Canberra afternoon light, on a line you can barely see, you have better vision than Superman.

In all probability, it was a try. At first glance, Waqa had to have scored. The common sense ruling, straight away, would’ve been to award it.

But as long as the video refs are in place, and the game remains in their hands, the decision will rarely rest in the hands of the men in the middle. That shift happened with Super League. Are we still trying to wrap our rough, un-exfoliated heads around that fact?

What happens next will be interesting.

Three years ago, Bill Harrigan needed to be sacked as referees boss. I’ll shoot a hand straight up: I called for his head, along with others, in the wake of the Greg Inglis try in Origin 1 that year.

Billy was punted, and then Daniel Anderson came in. Upon the announcement that he was taking over, Anderson declared that “common sense” would be the new edict of match-day officials in 2013.

Ando was chewed up and spat out by the refereeing machine, and back he went to Club Land where it is easier to deliver the angry emails than answer them.

For some time, many have believed that Archer should be in charge. This is his chance. He's already feeling the heat, and we’re still only into the second month of the premiership.

Meanwhile, Greenberg has explored the idea of a “video referee bunker” - similar to that used in US sports - where decisions are directed back to referees in a small, darkened room, away from the crowd.

How that is going to help is anyone’s guess. Whether you are at the ground or not, it doesn’t stop Waqa’s arm from being within millimetres of the tryline, or Buhrer from dragging back Cowboys defenders.

Maybe a bunker is the answer. Better still, investigate a bomb shelter.

Because if there is one single contentious video referee next weekend, it’s very clear that is what the NRL will need.

Twitter: @awebstar1

31 comments so far

  • I was at the game and let me tell you, Mr Bellamy, there wasn't a Raiders fan there who was disillusioned by the result. They would have been had the Storm won after slowing down the play the ball, getting most of the contentious decisions go their way and having Cameron Smith bleating at the refs 12 times or more.

    Justice served
    Date and time
    April 22, 2014, 12:45AM
    • Cameron Smith and Cronk were always around the ref trying to get decisions their way and slowing the ruck down. Melbourne can cry all they want but if they were a better team they wouldnt have let the raiders back in the game and scored more tries themselves. there is always contraversy in tight games so coach your teams to play better and then a silly call wont decide the game.

      melbourne are sooks
      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 8:06AM
  • It was a sunny afternoon and I couldn't see why the referee, touch judge or video referee thought it wasn't a try so to me it was a howler. It was like the Dragon's game up here in 2012 where Jamie Soward kicked a field goal with a minute to go only to see all the referees ignore a Ferguson foul on Gasnier from the kick-off in the interest of keeping the game exciting and giving the Raiders another chance to score.

    Date and time
    April 22, 2014, 3:03AM
    • One of the reasons Rugby League is struggling is because coaches are constantly whingeing. What happened to the old term 'we were not good enough"? The NRL need to toughen up and protect their referees, you don't hear too many questions asked about AFL umpires and if coaches carry on, then they are hit hard. The crowd figures for Easter Monday were interesting, 50,000 at the NRL game 80,000 at the AFL . The AFL figure is expected, but we can only hope that the NRL figure is a sign of things to come - somehow I doubt it.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 6:28AM
      • The main reason Rugby League is struggling is because the rules changes to make the game faster and more attractive to watch have been a string of failures resulting in a game that is predictable in it's format of bash barge and bomb and relies on referees to make value judgments on many of the rules. The efforts to speed the game up have resulted in wrestling and making the PTBs the focal point and the cries for more tries mean we have a ball being booted into the air every 6 tackles hoping to get lucky. The coaches whingeing about it is a result of it and not the cause.

        Date and time
        April 22, 2014, 12:17PM
    • Why would you spend your hard earned cash to go see a game of rugby league when the best team on the day will probably lose to a referee blunder. All the promotion of building memberships is being undone by the incompetence of the refereeing officials.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 7:04AM
      • If that was Haynes in the corner for NSW in the last minute of Origin 3 and that try put NSW ahead 12 to 10 to win the series, would Andrew have viewed the event differently? Undoubtable, Andrew would have said the ball touched the try line and this was another referring howler......

        Date and time
        April 22, 2014, 7:41AM
        • That is 100% correct!

          Date and time
          April 22, 2014, 9:23AM
        • Haynes is mediocre at best. His so called great skills are nothing when he hogs the ball and plays out of position. If i was the ref i'd call it a no try.

          Date and time
          April 23, 2014, 3:40PM
        • No one can see the ball on the line because the camera angle is not there. You cannot assume the ball touched the line when the linesman - who was right there - said it did not. The right decision was made, it may have looked dodgy but with the facts as presented no one could make a different call.

          Date and time
          April 24, 2014, 11:26AM

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