With the uproar following Friday night’s gripping game between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles, in particular the ‘hand of Foz’ moment; it’s time to look at the justification under the present rules for allowing the try.
The rules as they stand, state that in circumstances where there is uncertainty in a try scoring play benefit of the doubt must go to the attacking team.
It does not state that a degree of certainty must be attained, or some sort of gut feeling is required; just doubt is enough.
If we look at some of the analyses of the game from various sources on Friday night through to early Saturday evening, and in particular some of the language used in describing the incident, it is patently clear there is some doubt.
Otherwise different language would have been used.
Stuart Raper told The Sunday Telegraph: “It looks like it has touched Kieran Foran’s hand and it was a knock on.”
News Limited’s Paul Crawley and Andrew Webster wrote: “Foran appeared to have knocked the ball forward while jumping up and contesting a Daly Cherry-Evans bomb with Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston.”
Fairfax’s Brad Walter: “Foran looked to have knocked the ball forward.”
Fairfax’s Chris Barrett: “…which Kieran Foran looked to have tapped the ball forward.”
AAP’s Ian McCullough: “Kieran Foran appeared to knock the ball forward from a Daly Cherry-Evans kick, allowing Jamie Lyon to bundle the ball towards Oldfield.”
Not once in any statement from an official or indeed a reporter do the words – he touched, or he clearly knocked on, or the video clearly shows he touched, or he definitely touched bob up.
In all cases the description of the event is preceded by appeared or looked. Why?
Because the video evidence is inconclusive.
The video does not show without a shadow of a doubt that Foran clearly touched the ball.
The referees in the video box aren’t allowed to assume what happened; they needed conclusive evidence that Foran touched the ball to disallow the try.
They video referees couldn’t find it, and neither could the commentators listed above.
As a result of the benefit of the doubt rule, the try was allowed.
Last night in an attempt to put this whole sordid tale to bed Bill Harrigan said the benefit of the doubt rule required the officials to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking team in situations where the evidence was inconclusive.
“In this case, however, we believe there was enough evidence of a touch to move this decision beyond benefit of the doubt,” he said.
Here he defeats his own statement by using the words believe there was enough evidence. Even he can’t bring himself to say there was definitely a touch.
If we are brutally honest with ourselves we can all agree that we are pretty damn sure there was a knock-on, if not 99% sure.
But to unequivocally say that without a shadow of a doubt we are 100% sure is simply not to correctly view the footage available.
In such an incredibly fast sport where minute touches of the ball can result in game changing plays, there is no fool proof path to making the right decision from the available evidence at all times.
In fact, it is nigh impossible.
Nuclear reactors meltdown, oil tankers break in half and drivers crash their cars all from flawed human decision making.
To hold our referees and video referees to a higher standard than the rest of us is grossly wrong.