The locals didn’t riot on the streets of Townsville this weekend, though after a provocative and demeaning rugby league video screened in the video ref’s booth on Friday night, they were probably entitled to.

The two Magoos in green didn't notice this had crossed the line

North Queensland were robbed by the video ref. Maybe they would’ve beaten Manly if decisions had gone their way, maybe they wouldn’t. What’s beyond question is that the Sea Eagles scored two tries which were clearly not that. Even the one-eyed Manly fans saw enough through their single open peeper to admit they were lucky.

Over in the AFL, the opposite happened. The video ump got a controversial decision completely right, yet fans and commentators were incensed. All of which proves one thing. It proves that video technology will never definitively settle any argument. But that doesn’t mean we should throw it out.

The AFL video blow-up was inexplicably weird. Here’s what happened. With Collingwood deep in attack, West Coast forced a behind. The ball clearly crossed the line. But the onfield officials ruled otherwise, allowed play to continue, and Collingwood duly kicked a goal a few seconds later.

Watching the game live, you couldn’t believe the decision. In real time, you could clearly see the ball cross the line. I saw it, my six year old AFL Auskicker son saw it, the whole of Australia saw it! Or did we?

Your eyes can of course deceive you. Flicking relentlessly as I was between channels all weekend, I happened to catch the Radike Samo no-try for the Wallabies against the Pumas of Argentina. To the naked eye, his first half effort in the corner looked a try for all money. In slo-mo, it clearly wasn’t. He’d dropped the ball, as the video review clearly showed.

Video officials were invented to settle this sort of issue. They were also invented for moments like the one in the Collingwood/West Coast game. So here’s how that little show panned out.

When a review was mercifully called for, just seconds before the centre bounce, the video review guy saw what the rest of us saw. The ball had clearly crossed the line a few seconds before the goal was kicked, and he correctly overturned the goal and awarded a behind. Amen. Sanity had to returned to the universe.

Except it hadn’t. For the rest of the evening, commentators Luke Darcy and Matthew Richardson harped on and on about how the decision should never have been reversed because there was “inconclusive evidence”.

How was the evidence inconclusive? As the screen grab at the top of this piece and the one below both clearly show, you can see the ball behind the line as clearly as you could see streams of foamy saliva streaming through the gap-toothed mouths of the furious Collingwood fans.

A pie in the sky view

The rugby league tries are barely worth going into. One looked a clear double movement, the other an even more blatant knock-on. The universe saw them, the officials didn’t.

Nup, the dude in purple isn't touching the ball. Uh, apparently.

The lesson of the weekend is that nobody sees anything the same way in football, as indeed in life. The further lesson is that it’s better to have video officialdom than nothing. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and all that.

There is disturbing talk in the NRL today of changing the “benefit of the doubt” rule to reward the defending team instead of the attacking team. That’s how it has always worked in cricket, but it wouldn’t work in league because you’d end up with nobody ever scoring.

I don’t know how you make video officials, the public and fans all see the same thing in any code.

But it’s pretty obvious that changing the rules is no answer. To use a particularly timely phrase, that’s the equivalent of moving the mountain to Mohammed.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • Fred says:

      12:37pm | 17/09/12

      This is an outrage…i will be attending the swans vs collingwood match this friday…you;ll see me in the crowd…ill be the one holding the sign up “All Collingwood Supporters should be Beheaded”.

    • Economist says:

      12:50pm | 17/09/12

      Hey I’m a tolerant individual, Collingwood supporters with their front teeth shouldn’t face this punishment.

      I’ll be the one holding up an image of Eddie McGuire, their god, with slanderous comments below.

    • TChong says:

      01:51pm | 17/09/12

      Us fully toothed ‘Pies fans prefer a white and black mouth gaurd,to resemble missing teeth ,, when in the stands, in order to show solidarity with the Legendary Fans of Olde . .
      Nothing like maintaining a hard fough for , and deeply respected( by everyone) image .

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      02:48pm | 17/09/12

      From an unbiased point of view, having no regard for Aussie Rules at all, I can objectively say that the umpiring in the WC vs Collingwood games was the worst I’ve seen. Collingwood should have lost, but didn’t due to poor umpiring, another reason AFL is still only played by one country in the entire world and is arguably the worst ball sport on the planet. If I were a Collingwood supporter, I’d actually be ashamed of the outcome. I feel dirty and cheap just talking about it.

    • Catter says:

      03:17pm | 17/09/12

      @AA, who cares, at least it’s the major code unlike league which is a fringe game in every country it’s played, 4 in Total woopty doo,except 4 PNG.

    • Dan says:

      04:03pm | 17/09/12

      Rugby Union fans I hope you noted that Catter knew Fred was talking about League…

    • SimpleSimon says:

      12:38pm | 17/09/12

      I think the second Manly try was a bad call, but I wouldn’t say the first was “a clear double movement”. The grounding of the ball over the line was more questionable to me than the double movement. But I had money on Manly, so I wasn’t complaining about either wink

    • Dan says:

      04:38pm | 17/09/12

      Spot on SimpleSimon. Those who who claim the first try was not a try do not know the rules. The “hand of Foran” try was a shocker of a call and this from a rabid Manly fan.

    • Jimbo75 says:

      12:45pm | 17/09/12

      Actually Anthony the whole of the ball has to cross the line. Neither photo above shows a clear gap between the outer edge of the white line and the football.

      So commentators are very correct to say there is inconclusive evidence.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      01:00pm | 17/09/12

      I get that Jimbo, and perhaps should have made it clearer in the story that I did. But doesn’t the top photo in partiuclar seem to show that the whole ball has crossed the line? How long would the ball have to be if it hadn’t crossed?

      This comment is for you too @SM a coupla slots down

    • Jimbo75 says:

      01:14pm | 17/09/12


      In order to make a decision on the top photo you need to be able to take account, in your mind, both the paralax error and the remaining portion of the ball that may or not be beyond the outer edge of the white line

      I’m happy for you to form your judgement and I’ll form mine (I am a pies supporter by the way - and a Tasmanian one at that so I have two one-eyes). To me the overhead shot is the better one and that is very much inconclusive and therefore insufficent evidence to overturn the original decision.

    • Mahhrat says:

      01:36pm | 17/09/12

      @Jimbo75:  I paused and rewinded that footage of the AFL one on my AUSTAR.  Protip:  That ball crossed the line, if only barely.  On that top-down shot, there is a frame where you can see grass between line and ball.

      Given the second frame (and even taking into consideration all of the errors you mention), I’m happy with the decision.

      Saying all that, I’m even happier it didn’t bear out much on the game.

    • Michael S says:

      03:00pm | 17/09/12

      It clearly crossed the line. Why is this even considered controversial?

    • SM says:

      03:25pm | 17/09/12

      The keyword there Ant is “seem”

    • Macca says:

      12:46pm | 17/09/12

      I actually though the first video ref try for Manly, I think it was Fonua who scored it, was the correct ruling.

      He wasn’t guilty of a double movement; he’d already scored the try on the first put down. The first attempt at the line is short of the try line, but his momentum keeps him going forward, and I am certain that part of the ball touching the ground is on the line before he is rolled over. Unlike Soccer, only part of the ball has to be toughing the white line for it to be a try. Given the side on view was blocked by the corner post (which is on the try line) you can only assume that part of the ball touched the line. That’s certainly how we read it in my household on Friday night and we were puzzled with the feedback on Saturday morning

      The Foran one seemed an obvious knock-on.

    • Alicia says:

      03:40pm | 17/09/12

      I disagree on the initial grounding, I don’t think it touched the line at all.

    • JoniM says:

      05:14pm | 17/09/12

      “There is disturbing talk in the NRL today of changing the “benefit of the doubt” rule to reward the defending team instead of the attacking team. That’s how it has always worked in cricket,......”

      I think that is how it should apply to NRL as well !
      Unless you are 100% sure, should be no try !
      It is the sensible rule for every serious sport except for NRL scoring and boat arrivals ! Where benefit of the doubt is given just for making the effort and getting to the line !

    • SM says:

      12:49pm | 17/09/12

      “As the screen grab at the top of this piece and the one below both clearly show, you can see the ball behind the line as clearly as you could see streams of foamy saliva streaming through the gap-toothed mouths of the furious Collingwood fans.”

      Um, no they don’t

      The pie in the sky angle suggests part of the ball is on the line, the top image proves nothing because the post is in the way.

      Gerard Whately got it right on Offsiders where he made the point that conclusive has to mean conclusive, and in this case the video simply wasn’t conclusive, so the decision shouldn’t have been changed by the video refs

    • Sea Eagle says:

      12:49pm | 17/09/12

      The haters have always been jealous of Manly. Here’s a tip. The more enraged you get, the more we like it

    • Dan says:

      12:50pm | 17/09/12

      I’m outraged that whoever captions the images for The Punch thinks Manly wears purple, not maroon.

      And as a Manly fan, yeah we get pretty lucky with those two tries. But we had the better of NQ all night. We would have won with or without.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      12:58pm | 17/09/12

      Punch staffers do headlines captions and pic selection for their own stories Dan.

      Sorry, maroon it is. Ugly either way.

      Also, just noticed that Manly Warringah (MW) wear maroon and white (MW). They are also massive wankers! (MW). Sound of Twilight Zone music…

    • Dan says:

      01:18pm | 17/09/12

      Maroon’s a beautiful colour! Except around State of Origin. Then it’s terrible. Really, really terrible.

      Manly-Warringah wear maroon and white. They’re also majestic wonders. Mighty warriors. Mega wizards. Major winners. Yeah.

      Aren’t you a Tigers fan? If so, how’s that going? Because the Manly bandwagon has a spare seat, for anyone keen…

    • David says:

      01:24pm | 17/09/12

      I think you mean Magnificent Winners Anthony. As in the premiers.
      I forget, what colours do the Tiges wear? You never seem to see them on gameday when the finals roll around.
      BTW the reffing was terrible on Fri night. The Cowboys second try was clearly from a strip and a forward pass.
      Otherwise the Taufua try was momentum (giveable if arguable) and the other, well without conclusive proof, it was the proper application of benefit of the doubt.

    • Ben says:

      01:25pm | 17/09/12

      @Anthony Sharwood

      >>Also, just noticed that Manly Warringah (MW) wear maroon and white (MW). They are also massive wankers! (MW).

      Wow, Anthony, you really have the great wit about you, don’t you?

    • Achmed says:

      06:36pm | 17/09/12

      Anthony - and there I was just starting to like you

    • asdf says:

      01:02pm | 17/09/12

      I suggest Anthony reads the rules of AFL before writing such an article.

      The entire ball has to cross the line, any part of the ball is within or touching the line and it is play on. It may or may not have crossed, but the video replays never show the ball completely over the line. Hence it is inconclusive evidence.

    • thatmosis says:

      01:06pm | 17/09/12

      Lets really look at this. If we take away the try scored off a scrum for a lost ball that was racked the score would have been 24-6. We all have to agree that the ball was indeed racked which was shown clearly on replay several times. Now if we take away the two Manly tries that were award with dubious decision although the knock forward by Manly was to say the least not completely substantiated by looking at the video as Thurston’s hands were inside and above those of the Manly player and he could have propelled the ball backwards himself,  then the score would have been 12-6 and Manly would have still won. Okay the refs calls were abysmal but in the end didn’t have a bearing on the outcome as the team presented as the winner would have won anyway. Of course we will still have the majority of Queenslanders whinging that they were robbed but the figures and facts work against them but don’t let that get in the way of a good whinge. Also I neither support Manly or the Cowboys as my team didn’t make the finals and its all academic to me who wins in the end but if people are going to go on and on at least look at the facts and not the emotions.

    • Scuba says:

      01:58pm | 17/09/12

      Over-simplistic analysis like this of the effect of an error that leads (or denies) a score in any sport is wrong.

      If NQ had been 4 behind rather than 10 with 15 minutes to go they wouldn’t have been trying for the miracle play every time they had the ball.  Thurston also wouldn’t have dropped his bundle as badly as he did.

      Whether NQ could have scored a match-winning try or not we will never know (and the weekend would then have been filled with Manly supporters frothing at the mouth - legitimately - about the strip), but simply to say “Well, if we take away those tries Manly still wins” doesn’t wash.

    • thatmosis says:

      04:35pm | 17/09/12

      And there you have it, Thurston indeed dropped his bundle and this is supposed to be a professional player????? You take what the refs call and that’s that. If their wrong their wrong and there’s nothing you can do to fix it in the game but dropping ones bundle is clearly a sign that when things get tough even those who are supposed be be the most professional still get it wrong. I don’t disagree that the calls were basically wrong,  just that if taken away the better team won on the night.

    • Ben says:

      01:41pm | 17/09/12

      I notice Anthony Sharwood didn’t mention the referee’s failure to pick up Ashely Graham’s interference with Tautua’s playing of the ball, which led directly to a Cowboys try.

    • Gamer says:

      03:51pm | 17/09/12

      There’s a difference between missing a strip during the middle of play, and the Foran knock on. Unless the refs are in the right position at the right time, all they see is the ball pop out of a tackle, so unless its obviously a strip, they have to call it as they see it. The Foran try, however, was simply a massive stuffup by the video officials.

    • Ben says:

      04:02pm | 17/09/12


      Massive stuff up or not, the Cowboys capitalised on a decision that shouldn’t have gone their way, and scored as a result. The refereeing wasn’t one sided as Mr Sharwood makes out.

    • James says:

      06:26pm | 17/09/12

      @Ben You’re right it wasn’t all one-sided and I believe that the better team won. However, the big difference is that the ref had one (or maybe none based on the decision) look at the Cowboys strip, while the video ref had dozens at the two Manly ‘tries’. It’s not always fair to blame the ref for ‘real-time’ errors from the comfort of the loungechair. But when we’re seeing the exact same thing as the video ref? Then it’s very fair to blame them.

    • seniorcynic says:

      02:21pm | 17/09/12

      Did anyone else notice that the refs in the photo had OPSM on their backs? Maybe they should avail themselves of some of their sponsor’s services.

    • Justin of Earlwood says:

      03:27pm | 17/09/12

      I was at Leichhardt Oval yesterday to see the mighty Newtown Jets progress to the preliminary final of the NSW Cup thanks to a golden point penalty goal (and a helluva lotta luck).

      Two things struck me. One, unlike the NRL, the ref gave what ended up being a match deciding penalty. Two, while Norths fans were disappointed, there seemed to be an acceptance of “that’s how it goes”.

      Video refs/umpires can be great, but they create indecision in the on-field officials. When you add that to the 2 ref system in the NRL, & artificially creating grey areas in the rules (known as “interpretation”), you end up with the rubbish we’ve seen this year.

      Nothing compares to fast, decisive calls. Mistakes happen, but you get on with the game. When it’s dissected in front of you while the decision is being made, people get infuriated. Make the call on the field (e.g. “I’m going to award a try”) & ask the video ref to see if there’s anything certain that should over turn that (“unless you see something obviously wrong”).

    • Michael S says:

      03:50pm | 17/09/12

      Or give each team one challenge per half. If they don’t like a ref’s call, they can use their challenge to go upstairs - but unless the replay showed the ref got it wrong, the result stands and the team loses their right to any more challenges for the half.

    • SM says:

      03:56pm | 17/09/12

      that works for games like NSW cup where is no tv broadcast but how could you have a system in the nrl that uses less video for decisions when the networks are going to show 100 replays of everything for the viewers?

    • just shut up says:

      04:18pm | 17/09/12

      the video innocence of muslims makes more blood boil.

    • jax says:

      04:44pm | 17/09/12

      Collingwood complain when it doesn’t go their way (and probably not that important to the outcome of the game), yet when an incorrect decision goes their way and it wins them the game (anzac day vs Essendon) you don’t hear a peep from anyone:

    • pete says:

      05:09pm | 17/09/12

      I’d prefer you expanded on those two buffoons, Luke Darcy and Matthew Richardson. You know why they harped on about that all night? Because Saturday night football is now a variety show, staffed by idiots trying to generate controversy for the sake of ratings.

      If a team is 10 goals down they’ll spend the night talking about a comeback just in case you’re about to change the channel. Or they’ll pull stuff like this trying to generate a controversy for the rest of the game.

      It’s really embarrassing, you don’t see commentators pull this kind of garbage in the NFL or the premier league, but if you want to watch a game being broadcast by Seven you have to put up with their in jokes, token jobs for models, moronic backstories about players, stupid pre game and half time interviews that have nothing to do with football, talking up the prospect of 10 goal comebacks with 5 minutes to go and Luke Darcy saying “you just love the way he goes about it” every 2 minutes.

    • Blackadder says:

      05:16pm | 17/09/12

      I’m not a real fan of NRL, but watching the Cowboys match, you have to feel for Thurston and the impact of an incorrect decision - two in his view (I can’t comment on the first as didn’t see it - I saw the second and thought it a disgrace). In this day and age there is no excuse to get it wrong.

      It’s not just the impact on the scoreboard, but the psychological impacts post- such incorrect decisions. As a showcase match it was an embarrassment and personally, after that second decision, I came to my own conclusion that it was NSW umpires ensuring a NSW team made the finals.

    • Observed says:

      07:43pm | 17/09/12

      What Matthew Richardson and Luke Darcy had to say on the matter, whether prattling on about ‘inconclusive evidence’ is irrelevant [that is, if the author accurately conveyed the entirety of their objections, possible straw man here].

      If the video review had adjudicated the decision BEFORE the ‘all clear’ was given, and the goal umpire awarded a goal - then it would have been acceptable use of video technology.

      The problem is, the video review occurred AFTER the final decision had been made - an utter disgrace that undermines umpire authority.

      Whether the umpire makes a correct decision, or an incorrect decision is IRRELEVANT - the final decision MUST be respected. The video technology MUST only be used as a guide, NOT as a ‘second umpire’ dividing authority and power over the adjudication of the game.

      It also seems to parallel the increasing incidence of on-field decisions being reversed by another umpire - also unacceptable.

      What this opens the door to, is a slippery slope whereby umpire authority, and the respect of on-field umpires is diminished. We do not want the game to devolve into the situation, the culture that prevails in soccer - where players abuse, harass, intimate and otherwise act childishly towards officials when a contentious decision does not go their way.

      It’s an ugly look that Australian Football must avoid.


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