So far this year - in fact, more and more as it goes on - we've heard lots of talk and criticism over the obstruction rule.
It's raised its head on both sides of the rugby league world but it seems more and more to dominate commentary and social media during televised Super League games.
We have talked about it on an earlier episode of our show but now Mark gives his thoughts and suggestions on clarifications and changes to the operating rules around obstruction.
Right, let's get the obvious one out of the way first. I'd stop the video ref from being able to call on obstruction decisions.
Two main reasons. First, it's often a fine margin judgement call that I think is best made by a person in the action with a feel for the flow of things. Second, I think it's these long and repetitive referrals that really gets on the fans nerves. We aren't always sure what they are seeing or looking for and they take it to too precise a level that you start to feel, like I did in the Salford v Wigan game, that no try will ever get given!
That brings me neatly to my second point on obstruction. We really need to know what they are looking for. The interpretation on the rule needs clearing up for us all. We all used to know that you can't run behind your own man close to the line carrying the ball. Crossing was clear, you rarely saw it but always understood it. Now we have the dummy runner/man out the back where was the ball caught and which shoulder of the defender did they run at questions to answer.
For me it's simple. Obstruction should be called when a player possesses the ball behind his own man, whilst that man clearly instigates contract that physically impedes an opponent to his own team's advantage.
That's what we should want. It doesn't reward poor defence, which we don't want. It will make for more tries being allowed again, which is part of what we want. It would also mean this would It should make things clear to everyone I would hope.
Actually, I think how I've worded the rule is how it's already intended to be applied but the refs have just got a little too bogged down in it all, and they are now in too deep so it would look weak to back down. After all, the coaches wanted this area tightening up too (sometimes you should be careful what you ask for). And I fear that a line in the sand on this issue might not be drawn until 2015, which for a lot of people might come too late.
The final thing I would do may actually be the most radical and unique. I would change the result of an obstruction to be a scrum rather than a penalty. Maybe in the past obstruction (or crossing as we always knew it) has been a deliberate attempt to gain an advantage for your team but now really it's just poor execution of attacking skills, like a knock on or a forward pass. It makes me think a penalty is too severe for what is very often a fine margin error in execution. A scrum would surely be fairer. I think fans would accept it more if you don't lose possession and 20 or 30 metres for the penalty for poor attacking execution.
That's what I think. Let us know what you think too. As always the best views we get will be read out on the show.
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Super League Pod
Super League Pod