The mystery box

The video referee’s box possesses mysterious mind-altering powers.

While not an ever-present force, it does have the unsettling effect of an unannounced visit from the in-laws when it strikes.

It has the ability to jam a rugby league referee’s abilities of comprehension by short-circuiting their database of visual image identification.

Everybody from the sharpest scientists down to dim-witted footyheads have tried in vain to determine the point on the journey from the adjudicator’s eye-ball up to their decision gland that the images seem to magically alter.

So far, nobody has been able to define or cure this intermittent muddling of conception.

This box and its intangible spirit of disorder affects the upstanding and reliable citizens of league administration who have been empowered with the simpler aspect of league decision making. Even the most basic impression or appearance can be skewed.

At half time, when one of the assistants brings the video referee a beverage, he tries to eat it like a pie.

He tries to put trash into his chair and drive his desk home. Then when he gets lost, he picks up his road map and sees the Mona Lisa.

He kisses his pet dog when he gets home and then goes to sleep in his swimming pool.

Spilt milk.

These are on the milder side of its capabilities. When it strikes without warning at the most inopportune times is when it’s dream-shattering powers are at their most devastating.

Last night at Etihad Stadium, the ghosts returned. Not satisfied with a game already jam packed with contents resembling a bulging variety bag on a violent see-saw, they flashed their eternal season tickets and appeared in the box with 7 minutes to go.

The victim this time around was Sean Hampstead.

Greg Inglis had the ball in his mitts and was ready to plant it over the line before it jiggled and then met the boot of Robbie Farah. From there, the ball spilled loose and hit the turf for what appeared a garden variety rugby league knock-on.

Hampstead took a few steady-paced glances at first by running through the footage at normal time and checking the different angles at his disposal. Each vision showed him a bobbling pigskin with no hint of control or fastening to the hand.

Then the replays became slower. And more frequent.

It was at this point you sensed the influence of the box spectre taking over.

The images being transported from the peepers of Hampstead as a fumble had arrived at his processor with a non-conforming description.

What followed was real downward pressure. The index finger of Hampstead onto the green button.


And the wailing hasn’t ceased since.

Let’s get serious. The Inglis try may or may not have won the game for Queensland, lost it for NSW or had any bearing on the outcome whatsoever. Remember, it could’ve finished at 12-10 with the Maroons in front.

But what this incident highlights is the video referee’s habit to search for a minute technicality to either grant or disallow a try against the grain when the obvious answer is staring them right in the face.

In real time, there is no doubt that the faux try was a clear as day, run of the mill, textbook standard grassing of the ball from schoolboy to senior level every day of the week.

To the man in the box: sin bin the spectre, quell the mystery and use some common sense.


If you sports freaks out there enjoy this sporting slobber then you can also read my pieces and many more pearls of wisdom on 

You can also catch my dulcet online tones every weekend as the commentator for Roosters games through Play Up Australia. It’s available through iPhone, android or on your crusty laptop. Go to and fire up!

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Dane Eldridge Tries Hard

Contemporary rugby league surrealism and hot takes on Shane Warne

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