Almanac Rugby League – The Fine Line



Two years ago, Liam Hauser’s history of Origin matches carried the subtitle The fine line between winning and losing.(State of Origin: 30 years, Rockpool Publishing, 2010) He demonstrated that rarely has there been any deviation from this observation of the ebb and flow of matches throughout the history of the concept. I think it’s fair to say that this week’s Origin I match in Melbourne reinforced his thesis.

This week’s game continued another recurring reality about Origin contests, namely that there’ll always be controversy thrown in to fuel the interstate rivalry. This time it was about the sin-binning of Jennings and the Inglis try, resulting in a barrage of criticism from Blueland about being dudded by the referees. What’s new? Both sides can claim a host of examples from over the years.

The “fine line” theory showed up the other night on several occasions at least. Farah’s surge under the posts, only to be held up inches above the turf by Scott and Slater, would have given NSW a 10 – 0 lead with all the momentum. The history of the series suggests that that might have been enough to go on to a Blues win. Not long after, Tate almost scored in the corner but for Hayne’s last gasp push over the sideline. Given Thurston’s good night with the boot, it was another 6 points gone by the barest of margins. With Jennings binned, quick Queensland hands to the left and the micro-second speed of Slater’s off-load to Boyd saw the Maroons over in the corner. A fine line between 6 points and Slater tackled in possession.  In the second half, Thaiday just beat Brett Stewart to the rolling ball in-goal to deny NSW a probable 6 points and a second half lead, again with momentum.

Take all of those instances together and you have NSW in deficit by 6 points. Throw in the Inglis decision which, on some other days, may well have gone the other way and you have a different outcome. It is indeed a fine line.

As for controversies over tries awarded and denied, where do you start over the years? Here are a couple that those in Blueland might like to consider where the Maroons were at least equally, if not moreso, dudded by officialdom. In recent memory, how about the double knock-on in the lead-up to Girdler’s try, Game 1 2000, which not only cost Queensland at least a probable draw but also saw Tallis sent off leaving the Maroons a man short for the last 10 minutes during which NSW scored the winning try? (Ironically, the referee was the one and only Bill Harrigan, now referees supremo who called this week’s Inglis decision as correct.) And how about Darren Lockyer’s disallowed try in Game 3 2002? In a complicated finish to the game, only Carlaw’s last minute run secured a drawn match and a drawn series when a decision in Lockyer’s favour would have seen a Queensland match and series win. Talk about big stakes!

In the end, the awarding of the Inglis try was supported not only by the refereeing hierarchy but also by the NSW coach, Ricky Stuart. So what’s to argue about? Even if it had been disallowed, don’t forget that Queensland was still in front at that stage. The decision didn’t cost the match.

As for Jennings, when a player runs in from 20+ metres away, leaps into the fracas and swings a haymaker at a blindsided opponent, do you really think the ref had any option but to sit him down for 10 minutes? It must have been Jennings’ lucky day because on a bad day, he wouldn’t have been allowed to return at all. His post-match suspension served only to reinforce the action taken by the on-field officials.

The bottom line reads like this: NSW played their best game in a couple of years and may be closing the gap – but have they got any more improvement in them?; this Maroons team has a self-belief and resilience rarely seen at this level and they are unlikely to be as ragged in the next matches; NSW did not score a single try from a running play, Queensland scored two from very classy teamwork; Gallen erred by taking the shot at penalty when a new set of six from 20 metres out against a tiring side may well have won him the game – what the hell is Williams there for but just that scenario?; Queensland scored three tries and their kicker was on song, NSW scored two tries and their kicker was nervous on debut. Queensland wins!

But isn’t Sydney looking a corker?


About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at


  1. JJ Leahy says


    What about the Mark McGaw “try” in the days before video referees?

  2. What I like about it is that it distracts nsw from what they should be doing to get better. Gallen shouldn’t be captain. He leads by the ‘sore loser’ example and has now created a team of sore losers. Get him to have a look at succesful captains of other sports and see how they interact with the refs.

    Not that I care that much about helping them. Their arrogance enriches me!

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