Commentary culture clash exposes NRL truth
Rugby league purists got their wish when the NRL season restarted with the call to go from two on-field referees back to one.
But while the whistleblowers have enjoyed a largely smooth reception since May 28 as supporters rejoiced in simply having footy back on their screens - save for the controversy over Tom Trbojevic's "forward" pass against Parramatta - sooner or later the dream run had to end.
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Former NSW coach and Channel 9 commentator Phil Gould savaged the officials on Sunday night for denying both teams a try because of obstruction rulings in the Dragons' 30-16 win over the Sharks.
St George fullback Matt Dufty and Cronulla's Shaun Johnson both had their four-pointers rejected because the video referee decided their teammates had unfairly impeded defenders to open up a gap in front of the tryline.
Gould teed off on Twitter and in Nine's post-match broadcast.
"The people in the bunker have absolutely no idea what obstruction is," Gould said.
"Both were really poor defence. No one was obstructed and we pull it up and give it a different interpretation up in the bunker. A lot of these happen in general play 50 times and they just let it go.
"When a try is scored, they put another interpretation on it and the interpretation is flawed. It's about obstruction, someone has to actually be obstructed. No one was obstructed in either play. Poor defence was rewarded with a penalty."
Gould is one of the most respected figures in the game, having been involved in rugby league as a player, coach, administrator and commentator for decades. When he speaks, people listen, and his word carries weight.
So how then does an NRL legend who played nearly 350 club games, and who captained his state and represented Australia 32 times disagree with him?
That's what former NSW skipper and recently retired Sharks legend Paul Gallen did, challenging Gould's assumption by saying the video referee was right to deny Johnson's try.
"The Sharks' one was not a try. You can't catch the ball on the inside shoulder of a lead runner. That's a black and white rule," Gallen said.
Gould's response? Why, needing to catch the ball on the outside shoulder of a decoy runner rather than the inside shoulder is simply a "stupid" rule.
Fox Sports commentator Warren Smith also weighed in, praising the work of the bunker in getting the obstruction calls right, in his opinion.
Smith has been behind the microphone for footy games for a long time and he argued developments in the past 20 years mean more nuance is required to truly understand defensive reads and how officials make their decisions.
"There's a complexity to attack over the past 20 years that requires more than one set of eyes to determine whether the defence was given every opportunity to react to the play as they normally would," Warren wrote on Twitter in response to a post comparing his perspective with that of Gould.
"Fans want points, and defence isn't sexy, so many would like it open slather."
Again, two long-time, well-respected commentators watching the same game, but coming to two very different conclusions - a contrast illuminated by the image below.
Perfection doesn't exist in rugby league and it never will. That's part of its beauty, part of its charm.
That people who have been involved in the game for so long still can't agree on whether something is a try isn't a reflection on the standard of refereeing - it actually highlights just how tough a job the refs have.
It also shows how heated debates are as much a part of the sport as the on-field action, and help fuel the passion that is footy's lifeblood. Without that passion, without the arguments, rugby league isn't rugby league at all.
And perhaps, though it is far easier said than done, the clash in opinions will remind us a little empathy may be required next time you think your team has been "dudded" by a contentious call. And if it does that, we'll know miracles are possible.
Originally published as Commentary culture clash exposes NRL truth