Atoning Walsh calls for two referees
May 6, 2010
Steve Walsh returns to action this weekend © Getty Images
Steve Walsh has called for a second referee to help officiate a sport that's become too "complex" while admitting he got at least one call wrong in the Super 14 match that saw him stood down from last week's action.
Ahead of his return to duty after being relieved of the encounter between the Brumbies and the Reds last week, Walsh said the ever-accelerating game of rugby needed to catch up with other professional sports by adding more officials.
Walsh was heavily criticised by Brumbies players for his performance in their narrow loss to the Waratahs two weeks ago, in which he disallowed a potentially crucial try to Adam Ashley-Cooper and directed sarcastic comments at Stephen Hoiles after marching the Brumbies' skipper 10 metres for backchat.
Walsh, who resumes with the whistle in the Waratahs and Chiefs game this week, admitted the initial penalty against Hoiles for playing on while tackled was incorrect and that there was no "trust and respect" between he and Hoiles for parts of the match.
Walsh was removed from last week's match by Sanzar referees boss Lyndon Bray due to his "untenable" position as the centre of a potential circus, given the amount of focus on his previous performance.
''I got it wrong,'' Walsh told the Sydney Morning Herald. ''I thought he was still held to the ground, but he wasn't. The player had broken out of the tackle. And, yes, the split-second judgment that you hope as a world-class referee … You want to get that decision right all the time, but there are times where you just miss it.
''There is no doubt that in the first 20 or 30 minutes there was no trust and respect between myself and the Brumbies captain. I feel we got back on the same page as the game went on. Whether he feels that? I feel like we did.''
Walsh believes such errors could be minimised if a second official was added, with the increasing speed of the game and the growing complexity at the breakdown making it impossible to achieve the expected level of correctness.
Australia's rugby league competition added a second on-field referee in recent seasons, with one charged with observing the tackle area for illegal contact on the tackled player, dropped ball or intentional stripping, while the other keeps the defensive line onside.
Walsh pointed to American sports as further examples of extra officials being added, but the 2007 Super 14 final referee conceded there was little support for his proposal at the current time, including from IRB referees boss Paddy O'Brien, with whom he has floated the idea.
"I do think the game is too complex for one guy to be able to adjudicate and get right as much as what people's expectations are. I just think that is the complexity of the laws at the breakdown. The most challenging [facet of a game] is the mental fatigue. We are all out there in a battle of wills with the players. They are trying to get up on the opposition and us.
''Look at the rest of the world [and sports] that have been professional longer than we are - I am talking about American football and NBA. They all have more officials. The same officials work together as a team week-in, week-out. They have found that's the best way to deliver a better result from the refereeing side. There is no will for that [in rugby]. But I am convinced, in 20 years or down the track, that is something that will happen.''