Finch in retreat as refs demoted, rule scrapped
April 21, 2010
ON THE same day he dumped referees Ben Cummins and Gerard Sutton for their performances last weekend, NRL referees’ boss Robert Finch also scrapped a controversial rule change he had been instrumental in introducing this season.
Finch also admitted the dual- refereeing system he pioneered last year was still having teething problems, saying: “We had one referee for 100 years and we’ve had two referees for one year, so it is still evolving.”
Reacting to criticism of the new advantage rule that offered teams a free “hail Mary” tackle if they gain possession from an opposition error, Finch yesterday announced that referees would now use their own discretion to decide whether play should continue or be restarted.
He had proposed the change, which requires the team gaining possession to advance play 10 metres or to start the tackle count again from the place the ball had been dropped, in a bid to encourage more adventurous play. But he conceded yesterday it was not working and would be scrapped.
“Previously teams were just leaving the ball on the ground for a scrum, so it will be interesting to see what they do now,” he said. “But I’ve spoken to a lot of people about it in the last week and I told the NRL that it was in the best interests of the game to go back to the interpretation we had before.”
The announcement coincided with the confirmation Cummins and Sutton had been dropped over the controversial sin-binning of Parramatta captain Nathan Cayless and South Sydney centre Beau Champion in Sunday’s match at ANZ Stadium.
Finch, who insisted he was comfortable with news that his position would be reviewed at the end of the season, said he had no problems with the referees using the sin bin – but the pair were axed because, in the Cayless case, they had got the wrong man and had taken too long to dispatch Champion because of confusion over which Souths player had committed a high tackle on Jarryd Hayne.
He was also unconcerned that Sutton told Cayless and rival captain Luke Stuart before the sin-binnings: “And if you lose someone to the sideline that is going to determine the game.”
“They had both been talked to . . . earlier in the game in a fairly amicable way but the penalties kept coming,” Finch said. “In the end the captains were in no doubt what we were looking for and in 99 per cent of cases like that teams respond. We don’t want to put players in the sin bin but if the warnings are ineffective then the referees have only one option they can go to.”
Finch maintained that Cummins and Sutton did not lose control of the game, but admitted: “They did not look like they were in control of that situation.”
With two referees on the field, he said they should have identified that Daniel Mortimer was the Parramatta player who stripped the ball from Sam Burgess – not Cayless. They should have also known that it was Champion who tackled Hayne, although whether he hit him high remains in dispute.
Finch said the dual-refereeing system was still going through a transitional phase and would take time to perfect. “I think it’s already been a huge success,” he said.
Of comments by NRL chief executive David Gallop in yesterday’s Herald that he did not guarantee Finch would remain in the job for a ninth year, he said: “That doesn’t worry me, it’s like that every year. I had a contract for the first four years but now I am on staff so I am just like everyone else.”