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”.
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.