Video referees eroding players' confidence, frame by frame
Drop zone … Maroons centre Greg Inglis loses control of the ball after Blues hooker Robbie Farah had rushed across in defence. The video ref’s decision to allow the try has added to the confusion among players and fans. Photo: Getty Images
NRL players have never been more confused about the decisions made by video referees.
The fallout continues over the Greg Inglis try decision which sealed victory for Queensland in Wednesday's State of Origin series opener at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
Referees' boss Bill Harrigan defended the decision of Sean Hampstead to show the green light, but everyone from former NSW great Steve Roach to hardened Queenslander Paul Vautin has ridiculed it.
The ruling on the incident - in which NSW hooker Robbie Farah dislodged the ball with his foot but the try was allowed to stand because, according to Harrigan, it ''rebounded'' into Inglis rather than him knocking it on - has reignited a wider debate.
Privately, players speak about a lack of clarity and consistency when it comes to video referee rulings.
St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale, who fronted the media before tonight's clash with Parramatta, denied the upstairs referral had become a ''lottery'', but admitted having his doubts about interpretations.
Nightingale had a try disallowed against Cronulla in round six this year, despite appearing to ground the ball while his feet were still in the field of play.
''I got one disallowed this year, which I thought should have been a try,'' Nightingale said. ''I went home and had a look at it and, yeah, sometimes they get the decisions wrong. It's pretty hard, I imagine it would be a lot of pressure up in the box.
''I don't think it's more of a lottery, but there's the 50-50 ones which are always going to be in the game. You sit there and wonder whether it's going to be given or not, but that's the nature of the game and sometimes the interpretation can differ.''
There have been other contentious calls this year, including a video referee-awarded try to Canterbury centre Jonathan Wright last Monday night, with debate raging about whether he knocked the ball into Cronulla's John Williams before scoring.
A prominent league official who has previously worked with referees told the Herald yesterday that he would not have defended Hampstead's ruling on the Inglis try if he was in Harrigan's position.
Nightingale's disallowed try came as the Dragons trailed 12-0 against Cronulla at Toyota Stadium with 15 minutes remaining. The Sharks held on to win by the same scoreline.
The referees' coach Stuart Raper, who works in partnership with Harrigan, came out days later admitting the Nightingale try should have been given.
''After meeting with all the video referees and analysing it a number of times we agreed that it should have been awarded a 'benefit of the doubt' try,'' Raper said. ''The video referee got this decision wrong.''
After losing their past two games - against Penrith and South Sydney - in golden point, Nightingale is hoping tonight's clash with Parramatta at Kogarah won't be decided by another controversial decision, or extra-time again.
The Eels and Dragons drew 14-14 at Parramatta Stadium in round 14 last year and St George Illawarra have won just one of eight golden-point games since the concept was introduced.
''Hopefully we won't have to come down to that,'' Nightingale said. ''You wouldn't see too many teams lose golden point [games] in a row, so that is pretty gut-wrenching.''
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