There is almost unanimous agreement among
rugby league commentators and writers that the video referee made a couple of
dreadful blunders in Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider in Melbourne.

That is just one reason why I am genuinely
surprised at today’s Herald Sunstory in which two of the top AFL administrators are full of praise for the system they watched closely
on Wednesday night.

The AFL Football Manager,
Adrian Anderson, and Umpires Director, Jeff Gieschen, sat with the match video
referee, Graeme West, during the game.

Because they probably know little about the
rules of rugby league, they would have been oblivious to the blunders West
made. And they would also be oblivious to the fact the video referee in
NRL games regularly gets it wrong, despite the technology used.

Rugby union has been very
careful in its use of video replays. Soccer is considering their use and the
case can be made to use the system in the goal area. The
AFL has been considering a video system and that accounts for the
presence of two top officials in the video referees box on Wednesday night.

The advantages are outweighed by the
disadvantages – referees have become too timid, touch judges are now little
more than highly paid “wood ducks”, and the delays caused by constant reference
to the video referees are annoying fans, but please the television channels
because they can cram in more advertisements!

Rugby league in Australia will celebrate its centenary in 2008. Ever since 1908 errors made
by the referee, and his touch judges, have been as much a part of the game as
the two goal posts. Many a game – and even grand finals – have been determined
by a referee’s mistake.

Somehow, the game thrived without video refereeing, and
will continue to thrive if the use of the video referee is restricted even
further. Wednesday night should have sent a warning signal to the AFL and other football

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey