IN 2013 during the third Ashes Test, Australian batsmen Usman Khawaja was controversially given out caught-behind despite clear evidence from the new Decision Review System highlighting he had not nicked the ball.
It was a seminal moment in Australian sport.
The public outrage was so heated that social media went into meltdown.
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People were never watching cricket again, fans were furious – politician Kevin Rudd even tweeted he would ban the DRS from being any part of the home Test series were he to be elected PM again.
There was a lot of anger and frustration.
Last Friday night in Sydney that anger and frustration returned anew, this time spilling over into actual physical violence at the end of the NRL’s South Sydney v Bulldogs Good Friday fixture.
It is easy to fear what you don’t understand. Natural even.
And as we have learnt from Yoda this fear leads to anger which leads to hate and then onto suffering.
In 2013 cricket fans simply could not comprehend that it was a flaw in the system that was to blame.
Indeed it took the ICB over 12 months to fully correct the flaws in DRS and empower the third umpire to make the correct call regardless of what the on-field decision had been.
Clearly the NRL missed this vital sporting case study.
The biggest problem Rugby League has right now is that pre-technology fans could, when it was all said and done, recognise that referees have an incredibly tough job where they have to make split second calls.
Mistakes – even ‘howlers’ – were forgiven, often going on to form part of what makes up the fabric of a fan’s parochial culture and history.
But when a fan gets to see a decision being reviewed, their split second opinion crystallises in their mind from what they thought may have happened to what they are now absolutely certain did in fact happen.
The expectation immediately changes from the hope of a favourable call to the absolute assertion that the same ruling they have come to will be given.
Should the actual decision differ from their view then such a ‘mistake’ is much, much harder to forgive. Instead it festers. It builds up.
Rugby Union have combatted this problem by creating a system with very few replays which heavily favours the attacking side.
The AFL have limited techno-influence, restricting it to a handful of reviews per round, using a system that always reverts to the ‘lesser’ score if doubt remains.
Players know these systems, fans can understand them.
The same cannot be said of the NRL.
Just like the current coaches and players in the game who can say nothing (at all) about referee decisions, Rugby League fans become angry and frustrated.
And I see much fear in them….
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