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Discretionary calls open dangerous doors

THE problem with NBL referees, in particular, taking only discretionary actions against players who so regularly travel is it opens all kinds of dangerous doors.

For a start, all kinds of "home-cooking" accusations surface when say, hypothetically, Illawarra is called for three travels in a tight last quarter against Perth when far more heinous travelling salesmen have been waltzing around all night with impunity.

The amount of times a player will lead out, catch the ball, land, shuffle his feet, move his feet again, then prepare to make a move boggles the mind.

Don't tell me "it hasn't affected the play so why call it?" because of course it has.

If you're the poor sap defending the pass recipient, you now are clueless which foot is his pivot, which one he'll push off and therefore, disadvantaged.

   THE FIBA RULE: Not sure if this is the rule NBL is using, depends what suits of course.

It's understandable to overlook a third step - even though I'm old school and still hate it - when someone is in the clear and about to dunk.

We don't want to discourage anything spectacular.

But it still irks because every player knows the rules about travelling.

It is the officials who have become lenient - when they see fit.

So Jameel McKay can take a couple of steps, add a little stutter, then another step and dunk and that's OK?

Well no, no it isn't. 

He was in traffic so he clearly gained an advantage with a blatant travel.

Now look at Sydney's Brad Newley, who squares up to his defender on the wing, fakes, maybe moves his pinky toe a centimetre and immediately is called for a travel as he blows by his defender

As already stated, one of the issues with calling fouls in a discretionary manner is the issue and impression of home bias.

The other is far more potentially sinister, given the fact there is betting on NBL games. You can see the ugly doors that can open.

Again, while we all understand and mostly embrace the "pay advantage" aspect of NBL calling, the problem now appears to be the "callees".

Most of today's NBL referees do not have a feel for the game and know what to call or what not to call.

That's where "paying advantage" unravels.

Past quality refs such as Eddie Crouch, Bill Mildenhall, Ray Hunt, Mal Cooper, Geoff Weeks, Roger Shiels, for example,  all played sport at some high level and therefore had a feel for the game, the contest and its protagonists.

That does not exist to any great extent today.

As for the WNBL, the worst officiating you can see in that always is in Adelaide where the state's officiating cupboard is truly virtually bare.

The WNBL does not have the finances to fly better refs around the nation so in every city there's the risk of hometown bias, except Adelaide. But in the city of churches, the crews go the other way in the extreme, which also isn't right.

The worst aspect of WNBL officiating is its often sexist nature. Male players can back a defender in. Try that in the WNBL and see how quickly the foul is blown.

Watch a woman take a fake and drive to the hoop and it regularly will be assessed a travel.

Everyone - and that is EVERYONE - agrees the NBL has rarely been better, on court. Teams are laden with talent, the coaching has been quality, the level of play consequently seriously and substantially up on the past.

And what was done to keep the officiating on pace with all that?

Michael Aylen and Vaughan Mayberry agreed to go fulltime. Sadly, they're the only two who could do it.

There obviously is a lack of clear direction (for the second year in succession) from the top.

But until the NBL - and WNBL - actively recognise the importance of having the officiating maintain pace with the massive gains of our elite competitions, the door stays ajar for "discretionary calls," "advantage plays", accusations of "home-cooking" and, ultimately, the spectre and impact of gambling on the integrity of the sport.

Dec 2

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