How often do we see this happen? A team, showing tremendous spirit in defence, are pinning their opponents back and coming up with some eye-watering hits – the audience loves it – then… PEEEP! that’s the referee’s whistle.
Offside is the call and, within ten seconds, the dominant side is now on the back foot. What’s more, the game has stopped and the momentum of the match has been broken – All because the defending team were a little over-enthusiastic when they moved off the line.
Of course, you’ve got to punish offsides, it’s part of the game; but what if, instead of halting the play and marching the offending team back 40 or 50 metres, the referee simply signals that the defending team has been caught offside and restarts the tackle count? No stoppages are necessary and the attacking team still gets the advantage. What’s more, the complexion of a game is not changed on the basis of one set of players being a little over-zealous in their defensive efforts, as is sadly so often the case today.
I think a high tackle, a punch or any other manifestation of unnecessary aggression does warrant a stoppage and, subsequently, a penalty against the offending party. Is it really logical though for offsides, for obstructions and for markers not being square to carry the same penalty as a swinging arm or a spear tackle? I don’t think so.
I’m a firm believer, along with many other followers of the greatest game, that the best referees are the ones you don’t notice. This modification in the way infringements are dealt with goes hand in hand with that philosophy and will allow our match officials to focus on the aspects of foul play that threaten to tarnish the sport’s image as a family game.
Rugby Union is a sport where the outcome of a match is often won by the side that commits the least technical infringements. In my opinion, Rugby League should present itself as the antithesis to the ‘other’ coder where tries are a key component of the game, not a novelty. Matches should be won and lost by flying wingers, wily scrum-halves and moments of magic, not offsides at the scrum.