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Monday, September 12, 2011

Rugby vision

While I have no intention of writing about rugby and the RWC - as I don't want to add to the saturation coverage across all NZ media that has drowned out discussion of anything of importance - the South Africa v Wales game last night deserves a little comment.

NZ Herald: Hook got a penalty and might have had three more points 15 minutes in.

However referee Wayne Barnes' assistants, George Clancy and Vinny Munro waved away a penalty which at the worst appeared to pass either directly over the top of the righthand upright or just inside it. What next, a call for video referees on tight goal attempts?

Hook's appeal for a review by the television match official was declined and the ruling assumed critical importance in a match decided by a single point.

"I thought that kick in the first half might have been pretty close," Wales coach Warran Gatland said. Francois Steyn said at halftime in the tunnel that he thought it went over. Those are the things that happen in sport."

Well it's only sport? Tell that to the guy next to me who bet at the TAB on Wales winning. He was watching the delayed coverage that I had already seen, so for me it was like a watching someone watching a train wreck. Too painful... Didn't that go over? Didn't it? Looked like it did. Where's the replay?

In horse racing they have several video cameras around the track as well as the photo finish. The stipendary stewards are also at various locations around the track during the race and when there is an inquiry called they review the tapes to assist their decision. This is a rigorous process with a very high level of credibility and the decision rendered within a few minutes.

I worked at the track in my youth as a camera operator and in the stipe's room were three big screen TVs that had the replay synched so they could view it frame by frame from three different angles. From that moment on I wondered why this sort of technology was not being applied to other sports. Unfortunately I'm still wondering. Given what was possible many, many years ago in horse racing why are we still waiting in rugby?

To watch the TV ref go through a sequence is painfully slow. It takes forever to cue it. Then it takes endless replays - at a speed too fast - before a decision is made. Each angle is cued and viewed separately. Having seen how it can be done there is no reason it can't be applied to Rugby. It surprises me that no-one has seen fit to make an effort. In this fully digital age there is no excuse.

The TV ref should select the camera shots, two or three, and then let it roll in a split screen. They have to slow it down to frame by frame just before the point they are calling rather than let it go on as they do now. It will prove a simple exercise. It is astounding from a judicial point of view and from the punter's point of view that no-one has synchronised those points of view. I assure you that once this system is made available and people see it they will wonder why we put up with the shit we do now.

And is it not possible to have a camera in the goal post? Yes it is and I believe in some sports they do that already. Last night's would-be penalty kick indicates that they should be installed.


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