NRL's 'six-again' creates corruption danger

ADRIAN PROSZENKO
Last updated 10:53 10/02/2013

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Dual premiership-winning coach Warren Ryan has warned against implementing the ''six again'' All Stars rule in NRL fixtures, fearing it could make referees the target of match fixers.

The experimental rule was introduced in last night's match to limit stoppages in play for differential penalties, with whistleblowers allowing the attacking team to immediately restart play from a tap with a full tackle count.

Officials believe this increases the speed of the game and adds another attacking dimension.

However, Ryan believes that it gives too much power to the referees, who could then become the target for match fixers.

''As attractive as it may be as a flowing aspect of the game, there are far more dangerous aspects to this,'' Ryan said when contacted by Fairfax Media. ''You're delivering a frightening amount of control to the man in charge of the game.

''It's too hard to rort a rugby league game by bribing players, but with a rule like this the referee is the only man you would have to buy.

''If you let them loose constantly waving 'six to go, six to go' it can become open slather. That would almost be going back to the bad old days of scrum penalties where they could wave their arm in any direction for any number of about 38 things. It always felt like it was at the whim of the referee who was selected. You shouldn't risk opening the door and deluding yourself that corruption can't happen in your own game.''

At present, the ''six again'' rule is used only in the one pre-season fixture. However, NRL All Stars coach Wayne Bennett is an unabashed fan and has signalled the prospect of it being introduced into NRL fixtures.

But Ryan believes a traditional penalty count is the best way to ensure the whistleblower is held accountable. He even pointed to the fact that on-field refs used to ask ''how's Trent?'', code for a penalty count update.

''We can delude ourselves and tell ourselves that corruption isn't happening,'' Ryan said.

''But wherever money and human beings exist, you have to try as best you can to remove the danger of officials cheating.

''That just opens the door for a referee to take control of a game.''

There are serious fears about the integrity of sport after the Australian Crime Commission revealed links with organised crime, including the supply of performance-enhancing drugs. The issue is topical worldwide after a series of other disturbing revelations, including Lance Armstrong's belated doping confession.

Ryan, one of the game's great innovators, believes the ARLC should also review other rules, namely obstruction and the benefit of the doubt. However, his proposals for these were based on improving the game rather than corruption concerns.

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The former Balmain, Newtown and Canterbury coach said players should be pinged for obstruction only if they gained an advantage from running behind a teammate.

''If you don't disturb a defence line, you haven't taken any advantage - therefore why should you be pinged for running across field?'' Ryan said.

''The principles of obstruction should apply, where if you take an unfair advantage, you get penalised.

''If you come around a bloke's backside and take the next gap that's an obstruction.

''But if you run wide enough to move into the second or third or fourth gap, they should say play on, you haven't bothered anyone.''

Ryan said taking the benefit of the doubt away from the attacking team didn't necessarily remove doubt.

''Let's take this scenario - the referee hasn't got a clue, his view of the ball is totally obscured by bodies. There's no conclusive evidence and they go upstairs,'' Ryan explained. ''Obviously there is doubt, the ref on the field and the one in the box don't know. So who do they give the result to? Do they give it to the defence then? So there is benefit of the doubt.

''You cannot abolish benefit of the doubt. That's like saying you're going to abolish doubt.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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