What's wrong with the Cowboys?

Andrew Voss on how to improve video referee calls, why it's not a two-horse race, the most inspirational figure in the game and more.

What's wrong with the Cowboys?

Does anyone know?

It was fairly damning in the Channel Nine commentary last Friday night when one of the game's greats in Brad Fittler questioned what the Cowboys could have possibly worked on in the off-season given their shabby defence.

Is it too dramatic to call next Monday night a grand final for the men from Townsville?

Put it this way, I reckon if the Cowboys again play poorly, and with games against Penrith, Souths and the Warriors to follow their tussle with Melbourne, it's unlikely we'll be using the words "grand final" and "Cowboys" in the same sentence again this year.

How can we improve video refereeing?

Maybe don't try looking so hard.

We all accept that so long as humans are involved in the decision-making process, errors will be made.

But when you start to try and analyse things in fractions of a second you are asking for trouble.

That was certainly the case on Monday night with the decision to disallow what appeared a try to Penrith's Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Here's some technical explanation for you of the replays you see. Normal slow motion replays break things down into 25 frames per second. So each time a shot moves, you are actually examining one 25th of a second. Sometimes the shot may be blurred is because what you are seeing is half of one frame, and half of the next. So in effect you are not even looking at the correct ball size, or outstretched finger.

Sometimes we have super slow-mo cameras being used and that lets us see things at a minimum 75 frames per second, but also provides greater clarity.

At 'best', or 'worst', Watene-Zelezniak may have lost contact with the ball for one or two 25ths of a second. Is that how we want all tries being determined? 

If it is, then we are probably going to have to send every put-down upstairs.

What do we do with double movements?

Normal speed replays… PLEASE!

This is my last impassioned plea to the video refs on this issue. When determining momentum, you cannot possibly reach a conclusion viewing slow motion replays.

I firmly believe Blake Austin scored for Canberra last Saturday against the Dragons and had every right to extend his arm as the defender contributed to his momentum towards the tryline by tackling the Raiders five eighth from behind.

This is despite the fact the ball had made contact with the ground.

Yet after just one slow motion replay, the try was denied. 

On Monday night, Aiden Guerra was correctly ruled on a double movement. Austin's wasn't even in the same ball park.

Is it a two-team race this season?

No way.

I have had so many people reach that conclusion since the Roosters beat the Panthers. "Lock in the Bunnies and the Chooks for the big one," they say.

This call after just three rounds reminds me of over 20 years ago when so many footy experts kept saying a grand final between the star-studded line-ups of Canberra and Brisbane was inevitable.

It never happened. Not even in the 10-team competition year of Super League in 1997.

The Rabbitohs and the Roosters probably deserve to be at the head of betting, but they won't be getting any of my money just yet.

Are the Newcastle Knights real finals contenders?

History says yes.

From my friends at the FoxSports Lab comes the statistic that of the 32 teams to start a season 3-0 since the inception of the NRL competition in 1998, four have won the grand final, three have finished runners up, and 18 more have made the playoffs.

Only six of 32 have missed the finals, excluding Melbourne in 2010.

Rick Stone has a work in progress on his hands, particularly in attack.

I hope the Knights fans get out to Hunter Stadium in big numbers this Saturday to support their team against Penrith. It'll be a great gauge of where Stone's team is at.

Who is the most inspirational figure in rugby league?

That's an easy one: it remains Alex McKinnon.

One year on from this young man's dreadful injury suffered playing the sport he loves, his outlook remains so positive that it probably embarrasses most of us for the way we look at what we don't have, rather than what we have.

"Just enjoy life", is Alex's advice.

And may I extend this a little further without contradicting the views expressed earlier in the column. I know we have controversy in our sport, both on and off the field, and we often get all worked up about it. 

But it's still the greatest game. I've witnessed some fantastic rugby league in the first three weeks of the season already.

All the best Alex, you inspire us all.

I'm off to Mount Smart Stadium this weekend for the blockbuster clash between the Warriors and the Broncos.

Can't wait to call it.

Giddy Up!

Twitter: @AndrewVossy

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of the NRL or NRL.com.