View Full Version : NZ refs - do we really need them?

01-08-05, 12:08
Being an aussie myself, i acknowledge that the teachings in NZ are different to those that r taught here in OZ, especially in terms of positioning.

But i think that Steve Walsh and Paul Honiss are possibly the two worst referee's in world rugby. Walsh is even managing to stuff up from the touchline - did anyone see his decision in the Sydney test against the South Africans this year when Larkham caught the ball on the full in touch from a kick kicked, outside the 22, and Walsh decided to play the lineout where Larkham caught it, with Australia to throw in.... this is technically impossible as it was either out on the full or Larkham carried it out!

I personally think that the refereeing in the last three test matches between Australia and the Springboks has been WAY below average

Robert Burns
01-08-05, 12:08
I thought that Paul Honis had quite a good game on Saturday, ok, he made a few errors, but management wise I thought he was excellent?

Is that only me?

01-08-05, 13:08
I don't think bland comments like that do anything to improve the situaion for anyone willsie.

I didn't watch the game on Saturday (I knew we were in for another hiding!), so I dont know about Paul Honiss; but what was wrong with Steve Walsh's performance? My reactions from the game was that he had done an outstanding job. And yes as a TJ against South Africa in Sydney he made two very bad mistakes; I agree no question about that.

After meeting and talking to Steve Walsh last year the thing that impressed me most about him is that when he had a bad game (aka South Africa vs Australia Perth 2001), he was the first one to put up his hand and say 'I had a shocker, or I made a mistake.' He would then move on, knuckle down and do his best to improve for the next game. Thats something I think referees are scared of these dayz; admitting to players and coaches (well after the game obviously) that 'I got it wrong - I'm sorry' gains far more respect than just ignoring them, defying them or refusing to budge on an obvious mistake.

His performance 2 weeks ago in Johannesburg showed to me he is a very good referee; his management is outstanding I think and he is a very calm, composed referee. If anything I think the Australian referees are pretty poor these dayz Andrew Cole wasn't very good in Lions vs NZ Test 2 and Scott Young and Stuart Dickinson haven't received any appointments of significance for ages now.

01-08-05, 13:08
Scott Young and Stuart Dickinson haven't received any appointments of significance for ages now.

Thank the Lord for that!

01-08-05, 13:08
Willsie - I will give you a two word reply!

Stuart Dickinson!

He dishes out more cards than a Las Vagas Blackjack dealer! Generally regarded in NZ as the worst referee in Super 12, although we prefer to have him in the middle, rather than as TJ where he does more damage. Admittedly you are right; Steve Walsh is not much chop lately, although he has been better. Paddy O"Brien was one of the best, but anyone remember France vs Fiji in 1999 RWC. We are all capable of having a bad day. Unfortunately, some of us have more than others.

01-08-05, 14:08

Spot on Tim- while we should admit our mistakes as refs and take them with a pinch of salt, slaughtering one of our own like the rest of the armchair refs out there does nothing for improving the game.

When a referee makes an error in Law then yes, at the top level those errors are pretty glaring. We all have brainfarts and between 3 IRB refs these really shouldn't happen, but sometimes they do and we live with it. Even we mortals out there for the fun of it can (and will!) make mistakes, but that's part of the learning process.

Now, I've thought about this criticism to the NZ Team-of-3 during the Lions tour and now during the 3N series and tried to relate it to us folks down at the local area union level:

Consider Steve Walsh's game two weeks ago. SA were camped out in the Australian 22m area and there was a period where about 4 scrums in a row had to be reset due to collapse and being unstable. From watching it and hearing Walsh's chatter, I think he just kind of "gave up" on talking to the players as it didn't appear to be doing any good. No penalties after 4 resets! When would WE ever do something like this? To be honest, it's may be that Walsh couldn't really see anything wrong, but that both teams were being destructive towards the game, and if that was the way they were going to be then perhaps Mr. Walsh was rather content with scrummaging until half-time. For the rest of the match, the scrums were back to being stable. I doubt that Mr.Walsh's words with the FRs had anything to do with it, but rather the players finally realised that this was futile.

Let's go back to the Lions tour: Did either team really help in respecting the Laws? HECK NO! If two teams want to beat the bejesus out of eat other with every trick in the book, at one point as a referee you've got to make the choice of worrying about other matters. There was no respect for offsides and no respect for scrum engagement. They really did not seem like "fun" matches to referee. Was it really all down to the officiating? Personally I think as much as we can say mea culpa the players are also stakeholders in the performance of the match.

At "our" level, we will get a match where neither team wants to play rugby and we have a game of penalties and scrums all day long. If both tackler and ball-carrier go to ground and BOTH fight for the ball on the ground, it's going to be a very long day. It's hard to make a pile of $hit look pretty, but as a referee you've got to manage it or just say "screw it, if you don't want to play rugby, you don't need me here".

Players make all the difference in helping out the game- they can either play positively or negatively. I'm not saying that it's the players fault when a ref. makes a mistake (refer to first paragraph) but rather the referee doesn't always dictate how the game is played- it's the players, and it takes 2 to tango!


01-08-05, 16:08
I've just seen the Nelson Mandela match, and thought that Steve Walsh dis an OK job EXCEPT for the scrummage.

Train wreck, and he seemed happy to let it go on like that - no management intervention at all.

Simon Griffiths
01-08-05, 20:08
I think Tim and Bryan are pretty much on the mark with their comments.

Sadly I wasn't able to watch the apparant 'match in question', but none the less everyone has the odd poor performance - let's face many more players coast along than referees.

Let's leave the 'ref-bashing' to the ignorant sections of the papers and supporters, we can't afford to do it to ourselves. willsie, you gave an example but haven't said anything constructive about it (or the referees in general).

I believe that the school-teacherish style that appears to be prevelant in the southern hemisphere in general is not the right style for rugby, but I certainly believe all the referees on the iRB lists to be very good referees (even if I do think the distribution of places on the lists should be different).

Also, as Ian says, one of the best referees from the last decade or more was none other than Paddy O'Brien.

Mike Whittaker
01-08-05, 22:08
One day I will go out on a Saturday afternoon to watch a ref in a club game and he will demonstrate an all round competence in the same ball park as one of the international referees discussed on this thread...

... I will know that I am soon going to wake up from a very pleasant dream.

02-08-05, 13:08
Sometimes crap rolls uphill....

The best referees (obviously) are the spectators, then the players, then the poor sap in the middle.

Somewhat more seriously, I think the frustration that some of us mere mortals feel is that there seems to be common themes emerging from the top ranks that we would get absolutely nailed for. I defy anyone to watch the Nelson Mandela match and say that scrum management was anything other than poor. And yet that could be said for Steve Walsh - and indeed a lot of referees - over the last season or so.

Has the "lose a mark for a reset" factor gone away?

02-08-05, 13:08
I hope that the lose a mark for a reset HAS gone away. Scrums can collapse without anybody being to blame - and thats not the fault of the referee.

However, scrums can also collapse when the ref cannot identify a culprit. The majority of published opinion by top refs in biographies, manuals etc is that the ref must NOT guess. Guessing doesn't solve the problem, the front rows KNOW you are guessing and will continue to mess about and hope to pull the wool firmly over the ref's eyes even more often. It becomes a game between them.

The problem is that the game is dangerous. The ref needs to take some action. I have had one game in the past where I simply did not know who was doing what to whom - and strong suspicions that actually everybody was doing stuff to each other. I ended up after something like 3 or 4 scrums had collapsed at least 3 times each by calling the Front Rows and Captains together and explaining that since the scrums are collapsing dangerously it must be down to at least one of them not being upto the job - and that if so then we will have to go uncontested, as there is no competant front row. Which resulted in a a quick bout of "Oh, come on! Its HIM doing xyz" followed by an acceptance that - whatever was going on; it was dangerous. So if we wanted to continue with proper scrums then we had have PROPER scrums, and that was down to them.

The rest of the game the scrums were fine.

02-08-05, 17:08
Watch all the recent top flight games.
Look at the free kicks given - ALL went to the side putting in.

Mike Whittaker
02-08-05, 18:08
With regard to the Mandela match Simon I think the main failing in the scrums was down to the players rather than Walsh.. if the players won't scummage then eventually it becomes their problem. But then I just like his style...

As for the FKs going with the put in I ask myself what each team is trying to achieve? Which one has positive intentions and which has negative? If everyone is behaving themselves then 99 out of 100 scrums at senior level go with the put in. If they don't, we know who, statistically, is probably messing around.... so ding 'em!

Perhaps you need to get back to some good old Hampshire II games in the mud Simon.....

Simon Griffiths
02-08-05, 19:08
I have to agree with you Mike. At international level the players know how to scrummage and how to scrummage properly. If they don't want to that's their problem. Sadly, we aren't mind-readers and most of us haven't played front row rugby (some have - none-the-less watching it is very different to acting it). Often the only way to avoid resets is to guess (and as Dave said, that is not a good thing to do as a referee). I guessed at a scrum once - I don't plan to repeat that action as they knew I'd guessed.

As Dave said also, scrums can collapse without a guilty party. They can also be collapsed with us completely oblivious to which side caused it. One of our elite refs was on the war path after such again, his advisor going over board on the re-sets he'd had in one game. As he said, the players don't wan't you to guess, they certainly don't want the transgressing opposition to get a penalty (when it should have been theirs) and, if you don't penalise, you can't let a rubbish scrum continue otherwise you could have serious injuries. Result - reset is the only option in some circumstances.

Mike Whittaker
02-08-05, 19:08
Many years ago...(probably 20 but I refuse to admit it) ... a society training meeting had a talk from a very experienced but retired referee.. He told us then that in the 'good old days' (probably the 50's or 60's!!) he used the following approach..

If the scrum proved troublesome in the front row he would address the 6 gentlemen concerned and say that at the next bit of bother he would take all 6 names..

He would explain this was so that at the next collapse, or whatever, he would be able to send the first pair off!

This method he claimed was very successfull. I have used it myself at the lower level but bottled out in more serious games.. shame on me!!

I do wish somebody would try it in a Level 1 game sometime.. could be most interesting...

02-08-05, 22:08
I agree that the ultimate responsibility rests with the players Mike, but the referee ha s aduty to intervene to try to correct the problems. THAT is my issue - there was very very little, if any, correction from SW; no attempt to deal with the issue.

I understand the point that you are making about FKs going with the put in. I don't think, having watched the games, that the referees are making proper judgements. It's a case of "pick a FK, just give it to teh team with the put in."

How many FKs do you award before speaking to the offender? Because if they were genuine FKs, he deserves to lose marks for not correcting the offending props!

03-08-05, 00:08
How many FKs do you award before speaking to the offender? Because if they were genuine FKs, he deserves to lose marks for not correcting the offending props!According to the article on Planet-Rugby, there were 3 FKs and 1 PK awarded against Australia at scrums.
I don't think that supports the claims being made.

03-08-05, 13:08
In which match?

I also know that if I had awarded that many without seeking corrective action I would have been marked down.
The general point is that scrum management is a mess, and it seems to have degenerated that way over the last maybe season, two seasons.

If the commentators are commenting on the number of collapses, then I sit up and take notice

03-08-05, 16:08
Mandela 1 (KelvinDeaker) 0 PK, 0 FK at scrums
Mandela 2 (Steve Walsh) 1 PK, 3 FK at scrums against Australia
Tri-Nations (Paul Honiss) 1 PK, 0 FK at scrums against Australia

03-08-05, 17:08

So, as an assessor - at what stage during the scrummage process would you have expected the referee to do something about the front rows given that there were 1 PK and 3 FK?

03-08-05, 18:08
How long is a piece of string?

Far too much depends on the actual circumstances. If the 3 FKs were for the same offence against the same person (they weren't, in this case), then I would certainly expect a warning, leading eventually to a PK and so on.

Different offences by different people defending close to their goal line - warn the captain that you will treat it as deliberate (= PK) if they continue.

And so on.

Mike Whittaker
03-08-05, 18:08
Simon, I shall of course look forward to a comment from OB on this but meanwhile would add my sympathies if you as a referee are facing assessors who mark down on a statistical basis without taking many other factors into account. To make a judgement solely on the basis of the figures given brings to mind the term 'pedantic prescriptive plonker'... but then maybe I look for different things when I am on the touchline...

03-08-05, 20:08
It would be fair to say that assessors here - in my experience - are looking at the numbers.

Which is proving to be a bit of a barrier as I don't referee to numbers I referee to the match!

03-08-05, 20:08
Discuss it. Ask them what they would advise. If the advice is good, take it. If not, adapt it.

Mike Whittaker
03-08-05, 20:08
Unfortunately Simon that is also becoming more common here.. and the higher you go, the more it happens. Which is why some of us have no wish to assess at Group (level 5/4) but stick to the county and federation games.

There is clearly an opportunity for coaching at the higher levels but there again if the referees want to get on they have to please the assessors ... who work by numbers.

... and of course there may just be the occasional assessor who is more concerned with his own progress than with that of the referees !!!!

04-08-05, 15:08
Discuss it. Ask them what they would advise. If the advice is good, take it. If not, adapt it.

If I was still in England, I would do that.
I also knew that I had access to the right people to make sure that my voice was heard.

Here, I get a straight number which impacts my grading. I took substantial issue with the grading and the numbers, and protested in a constructive and well argued memo. So far - 8 months down the line - I have heard nothing.

04-08-05, 17:08
No wonder we were always struggling for referees when I played in Maryland.

07-08-05, 17:08
Plus ca change.....