Flanagan, Barrett masters of blame game Print
Written by Wally Mason, The Australian   
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 15:41

Referees, umpires, touch judges, goal umpires, TMOs, linesmen, rules official. Who’d be one?

No matter how well you do your job, there is a better than even chance that some disgruntled coach, captain, player, club president, water boy or No. 1 ticket holder will blame you for their loss.

The fact that they were without skill, luck or tactical nous and comprehensively outplayed by the opposition won't come into it. The reason for the loss will all come down to one or two decisions by the bloke with the whistle.

There are no exceptions here — it happens in all sports. Michael Cheika is good at it, fuming over a series of decisions that apparently contributed to the Wallabies’ loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin last month. Arsene Wenger has a habit of it. Apparently the ref was to blame for Arsenal losing to Stoke City the other day.

But the absolute champions of blaming the referee are rugby league coaches. And the two latest — and arguably most blatant — exponents are Trent Barrett and Shane Flanagan.

Barrett blew his top when his side, Manly, went down to Penrith on Saturday, petulantly demanding the match officials go into the dressing room and explain to his players how their decisions had ended the club’s season.

Flanagan, just as petulant, ranted about the "disgraceful" refereeing that apparently resulted in Cronulla losing to the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

As my colleague Patrick Smith wrote in his column this morning: "What a sook."

Both of them are totally wrong. Both Cronulla and Manly were beaten by teams that were hungrier, harder, more enthusiastic and made fewer mistakes. The referees and the Bunker had little or nothing to do with the outcomes.

The much maligned refs and umpires are largely just ordinary humans doing their best.

Like all humans — coaches and athletes included — they make mistakes. But few of them are biased and most of them, at least at the elite level, have a decent understanding of their sport. And across the swings and roundabouts of a footy season, it will even itself out — some bad calls will go in your favour, some against.

Broadly, good teams tend to win, not-so-good teams tend to lose. Cronulla and Manly were not good enough.

What’s most disgraceful, of course, is that Barrett and Flanagan are damaging their sport. At a time when NRL crowds are down and the sport is battling for its place in Australia’s crowded sporting market, the coaches are blackening the name of rugby league by suggesting the contests aren’t fair.

They both seem to have refined the art of choosing their words carefully enough to avoid being fined by the NRL for criticising referees.

Which may suggest that it is time for the NRL to toughen up the rules and force coaches to grow up, take responsibility and stop looking for someone else to blame.