NRL's response to Parramatta furore that shows everything wrong with the game right now

Viewers were dumbfounded by the Blaize Talagi no try on the weekend.

The NRL needs to stop giving us lame explanations about the refereeing decisions that infuriate viewers every week and actually start listening to the fans. NRL head of football Graham Annesley's latest Monday briefing about the controversial Blaize Talagi no try for Parramatta against Newcastle was the perfect example.

Hardly anyone watching Saturday's match seemed to think Talagi lost the ball over the line in what proved to be a crucial call that went against the Eels in their 34-26 defeat. Replays showed Talagi initially grounded the ball centimetres short of the try line before momentum took it over, and his hand never lost contact with the ball. But the bunker official ruled that Talagi 'rolled' the ball over the try-line, constituting a knock-on.

On the left is NRL head of football Graham Annesley and Parramatta's Blaize Talagi on right.
Graham Annesley's explanation of the Blaize Talagi no try for Parramatta is unlikely to satisfy many NRL fans. Pic: Getty/Fox League

“As long as his body stays in I think that’s good,” Greg Alexander said in commentary for Fox Sports. “He just keeps his arm on the ball, never releases an arm, never comes away from it. Oh no! That’s a try there!” Alexander's view was certainly backed up by plenty of fans, who were left angry and confused by the ruling.

As he does with regularity every Monday afternoon, Annesley went through his briefing to explain why the decision was correct, in a statement unlikely to appease many fans. It brought back memories of him defending the controversial no try to Wests Tigers captain Api Koroisau against Brisbane earlier in the season, with Annesley again saying the bunker made the right call on Saturday, despite enormous backlash from fans.

“This is quite different to the interpretation we spoke about at the start of the year where if a ball comes out of a hand as the player is trying to place it on the ground," Annesley explained. "If there is separation then they have to catch up with it before it hits the ground, and then if it does roll down the arm and they catch up with it, that can be ruled a try.

“But that’s not what happens here because the ball was firstly grounded short of the line, and regardless of what you think about the separation, it’s short of the line and then the ball rolls across the line with the arm. If you elevate that up off the ground then the ball comes out of his hand and there’s nothing to stop it from dropping away from the air. There’s no way this can be ruled a try. It was ruled no try live, and there was no evidence for the Bunker to overturn the original decision.”

Blaize Talagi's hand never left the ball as it made its way to the try-line. Image: Fox League
Blaize Talagi's hand never left the ball as it made its way to the try-line. Image: Fox League

Confused? Don't worry, you're not alone. Annesley and the NRL need to understand that fans are sick of hearing long-winded and questionable explanations for many of the contentious decisions that are happening with alarming regularity. And the officials have to realise that viewers watch footy to see tries, that's where the most excitement lies in a game of rugby league. No one wants to watch a dour slug-fest with very few tries - South Sydney's scrappy round 16 win over Manly during the Origin period being a case in point.


So why are the officials seemingly doing everything they can to take away tries from teams. There used to be a widespread notion that the benefit of the doubt would always go to the attacking team for 50/50 calls but it never happens anymore. Instead, the NRL consistently finds new ways to alienate its fanbase with head-scratching calls, only for Annesley to spin some barely plausible explanation every Monday.

For a lot of fans out there, the game is being ruined by the over-reliance on the bunker and the multitude of different interpretations across any given game. Lifting tackles like the one from Koroisau that saw the Tigers skipper sin-binned on the weekend but not even charged have sparked backlash from some of the game's most experiences coaches such as Trent Robinson and Wayne Bennett. The sooner the NRL starts listening to the criticism - and (fingers crossed) perhaps even scales back some of the bunker's influence - the better it will be for the fans who are becoming increasingly fed up with the game.