Crikey Sports introduces Nick Tedeschi who writes for Punting Ace with his weekly From The Couch article  — “one of the most popular rugby league pieces anywhere.”

Punting Ace’s Nick Tedeschi writes:

Phil Gould, the Daily Telegraph and this author rarely all agree on anything when it comes to rugby league. It is as rare as finding a four leaf clover embedded in a hen’s tooth as Halley’s Comet floats on by. When it comes to referees boss Robert Finch, however, we are all in unison, a united triumvirate demanding Finch be held responsible for the damage he has done to rugby league.

100421_teleFans, coaches and players have lost faith in the referees and the system of officiating. The responsibility for that loss of faith along with a total frustration that has come with the ridiculous rule interpretations, the key performance indicators and the egotistical manner in which referees talk to players all rests with Robert Finch. The current system is his doing and it must be his head that is served up to appease the masses need for blood.

The sin bin will not do.

Robert Finch must be sent from rugby league, an example of what will happen to those who want to mess with the game considered by many to be the greatest of all. Nothing short of dismissal will stop the rot so nothing short of dismissal will do. It is time for David Gallop to act. Now, before it is too late.

The damage Finch has done to rugby league is immense and his failings are too numerous to lay out in such a small space. A brief analysis of the last few weeks should provide an adequate picture of Finch’s work, however, though it makes for brutal reading.

The video refereeing is a shambles and it has very little to do with wrong decisions. For the most part the video referees are making the correct decisions based on the rule interpretations they are coached, rule interpretations determined by Finch.

Three examples from the last three weeks.

The Steve Matai try against the Warriors was determined to be a four-pointer despite the fact Matai had no control of the ball and did not force the ball onto the ground. Had that play occurred anywhere else on the field, it would have been a knock on. Yet Finch has decided that a player does not need to control the ball and after a number of slow motion replays that do not give an accurate picture, the try was awarded.

The Brett Morris no try against the Broncos was determined to be a not try because Dragons centre Matt Cooper was deemed to have obstructed a Brisbane defender. Cooper did not touch a Brisbane player. He merely ran an inside line and attracted the attention of the defender while the ball carrier dummied to Cooper and then hit Morris on the outside. This is only the latest and most appalling example of the nitpicking used with the obstruction rule. Finch justified the decision by saying the pass had no depth though he could not offer an explanation as to how much depth was required.

The Ben Smith try against Canberra after the ball his Smith’s shoulder and chest when Smith was acting as a decoy runner was a disgrace. It was a clear knock on but under Finch’s black-and-white interpretation it was awarded a try because it didn’t come off Smith’s hands. The Raiders were penalised for pressuring the ball carrier and moving up off their line.

On the field, the situation is no better.

Cameron Smith was penalised against the Titans for taking a drop out one second over the allotted time. He was also penalised for rucking in the scrum. Referees are forced to stop play and call out captains after five penalties and use the sin bin when the count nears twenty. The referees have no room to officiate to the feel of the match. Referees are coached to have egos, talking down to players and making decisions that make them the centre of attention.

Last weekend in the Parramatta-Souths match, the referees lost control. They sent the wrong player to the sin bin before sin binning another for a non-sin binnable offence in an obvious square up. Finch then showed how little he actually understands about the sport when he dropped those two referees for sin binning the wrong player when it was actually their inability to control a match that was far from ill disciplined that was their actual failure. Sin binning the wrong player is acceptable if a sin binning was actually justified but it wasn’t even though Finch disagrees.

We could continue but for the sanity of us all we won’t. Robert Finch has caused immense damage to rugby league. He has left all the stakeholders frustrated, angry and confused. He has created a system driven by ego and nit-picking while giving the referees no latitude to interpret the match or understanding of the sport. His grade as referees boss is an epic fail. Finch has to go and if he won’t walk then David Gallop must fire him immediately.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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