Ricky and the Refs – Reframing the Debate

Apologies to Elton John for murdering his song … though the film clip for this one would be measurably better!

Ricky Stuart’s arteries are beginning to scream blue murder in similar fashion to his diatribes about referees and their decisions. For the sake of his personal health, he needs to take a step back (and avoid greasy foods).

And make that step even further back than refusing to communicate directly with the referees’ boss, Daniel Anderson.

I can understand his frustration – the refereeing is so far below acceptable it’s frightening.

However, his running battle with referees and the ongoing soliloquy/monologue about said Mr Anderson is becoming the equivalent of a pissing competition performed into the wind, and from the bottom rung of a very lopsided playing field. And as we all know, in a competition of this nature, being on the top step is a far better proposition.

Don’t forget, the NRL is a lot like Ricky, which is probably why they are rubbing each other up the wrong way. Unlike Mickey Arthur, who didn’t learn to praise externally and read the riot act internally, NRL management will close ranks in an environment of sustained criticism, and you get precisely nowhere by doing do (though your hip pocket becomes measurably lighter – one year less of kiddie private school fees each time!).

Ricky needs to reframe the refereeing debate in a mature and reasoned way that recognises general incompetence, rather than it being Eels-centric. I’m not sure if this is in his  diplomatic toolkit, particularly in the context of a team that is underperforming almost catastrophically which, in turn, means his job comes increasingly under the microscope. Yet, this is the only way progress will be made into the competence of NRL referees.

One would expect the teams at the bottom of the table to give away more penalties generally because they are under pressure for longer periods, and unable to apply pressure of high intensity of their own.

They’re not being penalised because they’ve got a mortgage on the spoon. They are at the bottom of the table because of their relative performances. See Parramatta’s work rate below. They are being forced to do more work, on average, than any other team:Work Ratio

A better bargaining position might also be gained by not disavowing any knowledge of Anderson’s job description before claiming that his job description, whatever it is, is not being fulfilled. Perhaps we might like to offer a workable version?

And Ricky is not the only one with a case to make about poor refereeing – it’s not about Parramatta.

As the chart below shows, the Roosters, Manly and Tigers have an even greater claim on calling the referees on some sort of systematic bias, yet they haven’t. Coincidentally, all three teams lay above Parramatta on the table – by 14, 11 and 4 points respectively.Penalty Ratio

And by the way, similarly preposterous numbers are being recorded in favour of some teams such as the Sharks, Raiders and Cowboys as the chart shows. None of the matches I have watched this year, and they have been considerable in number, have warranted such an uneven average distribution halfway into a season.

The point is that the referees are making poor decisions regularly, and not just against Parramatta. Watching the Roosters/Warriors match last week made me wonder if the 10-metre rule have gone back to 5-metres at times.

The referees clearly aren’t ‘fulfilling’ their own job descriptions, and some of the video refereeing has been possible to comprehend only if you assume they are midway through a real-life ‘Hangover’ sequel.

Clearly, being on the wrong side of penalty counts doesn’t help a team control possession, but then again, if your ‘set completions’ are at the bottom of the league, then there is a different issue. Completions Percentage

And if the attack lacks punch when actually in possession (before you ‘incomplete), then that is a different problem too. This stuff adds up!Metres Per Run Difference

Now, I was quite happy to defend his comments a few weeks back when he clearly didn’t call ‘bias’, but rather, was merely calling ‘incompetence’. The Eels should never have paid the 10k fine on that basis. His mistake at that time was in invoking Daniel Anderson’s name. From there, there is no turning back.

If a fine was applied at that time, it’s difficult to see Ricky escaping one this time.

Ricky was right the very first time he opened his mouth – he doesn’t have the cattle. Time to take a different approach with regard to referees. The referees are not many things, and one of those things is a charity.

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