The next “recruit” the Australian Rugby
Union needs to sign up from rugby league is Bill Harrigan, the former top
referee, and now the assistant referees’ “coach”.

Under the Harrigan regime today, coaches
are doing the unheard of – screaming out for more penalties from the referees!
But tries are being scored more than ever – and the fans are the real winners.

Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup match at
Lang Park, the spiritual home of rugby league, reminded me of a rugby league
match from the bad old days – when referees ruined game after game with
pedantic penalties, including scrum penalties conveniently given in front of
the posts to keep the scores as even as possible.

With better refereeing, Saturday night’s
game could have been so much better. The battle between the forwards was
titanic – just like it used to be before the tackle count rule was brought
into rugby league.

The Irish referee, Alain Rolland, did
nothing for the game as a spectacle (if you are a league fan like yours truly)
by handing out 14 penalties (seven each) before half time, and another eight
or so in the second half. Bill Harrigan would soon straighten him out!

Is it any wonder that just one try was
scored in 80 minutes of football? Compare that with yesterday’s
outstanding league match between the Storm and the Dragons. ELEVEN tries in the
match – six to the Storm and five to the Dragons.

I can remember the time when the ARU used
the term “running rugby” in its advertising. If it did that today, the ACCC
would surely intervene under the misleading advertising laws.

In the end, the All Blacks were too good at
shutting down the Wallabies’ attack. The Bledisloe Cup is theirs for another
year – but the Wallabies showed enough to give fans hope that the 2007 World
Cup in France mightn’t be a matter of drowning sorrows with fine French wine and
champagne.

But please, ARU, IRB and whoever else runs
the game, sign up Bill Harrigan now so you can legitimately get that “running
rugby” campaign up and running again!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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