Thank god for the video ref: Voss

Andrew Voss tackles the big issues in rugby league every week on NRL.com.

1. The video referee: friend or foe?

Friend… glorious friend!

Look, I get as frustrated as any fan sometimes when the bloke upstairs takes multiple looks at replays.

And I will concede that I wouldn't take too much convincing to maybe restrict the video referee intervention to matters in goal or the actual act of scoring the try.

However I can't help but think that so many of the spectacular tries we see scored in the corners these days would be disallowed if we didn't have the benefit of frame-by-frame replays from all angles.

Brett Morris's 'leap of faith' against Cronulla last Saturday night is a case in point. To the naked eye watching live you thought he couldn't possibly have got it down legally.

As you then watched the slow motion replay, your jaw just dropped, marvelling at what Morris the magician had just pulled off.

The same can be said of so many scrambles and dives for the corner these days. So often your first impression is "he couldn't have scored that".

Then thanks to the video referee, you are left with just one thought: WOW!

2. Do we need a play-the-ball crackdown?

I believe we do.

And I also believe it would only take a week or two of 'pain' to achieve the desired result… and that is getting the players to make a better attempt at getting their foot on the Steeden in the play-the-ball.

Some of what we saw last weekend, which was allowed to go without penalty, was hard to swallow.

How hard can it be? Just slow down a fraction to achieve this attention to detail.

Inform all clubs the crackdown is starting this week and have the referees apply zero tolerance. Yes, there will be more penalties in the short term. But the effort will be worth it.

Please don't let the play-the-ball go the way of the scrum.

3. Are the Panthers genuine contenders?

Maybe not to win the competition (yet), but they look every bit a side that will be playing deep into September this year.

Between Gus Gould, Warren Wilson, Ivan Cleary and co, things are really coming together on and off the field at Sportingbet Stadium. 

The Panthers could have easily been sitting three from three to start the season. They tick plenty of boxes with a bit of depth across the board as well.

The local derby with Parramatta at Pirtek on Saturday promises to be a cracker. Should the Panthers win, they then have three home games in a row against Canberra, Souths and the Gold Coast.

4. What makes a champion? (Part 2)

Last week I wrote of how impressed I was in the way Jharal Yow Yeh had handled his retirement announcement. It oozed champion qualities. We should be proud of the role rugby league played in making this young man.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of interviewing former international and grand final star Chris Mortimer at the Penrith Panthers Chairman's Lounge before the match with Canterbury.

What a class act. 

Rugby league doesn't have a royal family but the Mortimers are all kings in my book. Terrific blokes who have made the sport all the better through their involvement.

5. Is there a league gold mine in Fiji?

I think the answer is yes.

Surely the signals are there for all to see that we should be doing all we can to grow rugby league in Fiji.

With the assistance of NRL-based stars, Fiji has qualified for the semi-finals at the past two World Cups.

To watch the raw talent of the likes of the NRL's leading tryscorer Semi Radradra at Parramatta is a reminder of the potential that exists there, despite rugby union holding fort.

Let's take a game to Suva. PNG is making giant strides with their inclusion in the Intrust Super Cup. Let's examine whether the same can be done with Fiji sooner rather than later.

6. Is rugby league still the greatest sport?

Yes sir.

But the tragic injury suffered by Newcastle's Alex McKinnon perhaps made us all think that we don't appreciate it enough, nor the athletes who are putting their bodies on the line week in, week out, for our entertainment.

Rugby league is a tough, dare I say brutal sport.

I have loved the game for as far back as I can remember running around the backyard at my mum's place listening to Frank Hyde's commentary.

I now have a son who plays league, and shares my passion for the sport.

I feel blessed every day of my working life to say that I cover the game for a living.

All I can say in light of the injury to young Alex, is that no matter which club you support, respect and admire the effort all the players put in, and the physical risks they take. 

I'm off to the 'Cake Tin' in Wellington this Saturday to call the Warriors/Tigers clash. It should be a beauty.

Enjoy your weekend of footy.

Giddy up!

Twitter: @AndrewVoss9