Published on October 27, 2013 11:25 PM by dbo.
In yesterday’s Montreal vs Hamilton game in Guelph where the Tiger-Cats eventually prevailed, there was a 4th quarter instant replay challenge initiated by Hamilton that the call on the field of down-by-contact was incorrect. The video evidence showed that the Montreal player clearly lost the ball before being down by contact. Yet Hamilton both lost the challenge (Montreal retained possession of the ball) and won it (Hamilton was not charged a failed challenge). Evidence of an obvious conspiracy against the Tiger-Cats?
The review on play 115 was ruled a fumble but no immediate recovery made, so Montreal retained possession. When informed of the ruling, Hamilton head coach Kent Austin went ballistic on the sidelines. The ruling made was correct based on the immediate recovery necessary for a fumble ruling on a play whistled dead.
After the ball came out as the tackle was made and the whistle was blown, the nearest Hamilton player stood over the ball for a split second then reached down and tried to pick it up with two hands, never truly securing the ball. A Montreal player then lunged in, trying to fall on the ball, only to have it squirt out and eventually be recovered by Hamilton. The initial hesitation and subsequent scrum for the ball after the whistle was not an immediate and clear recovery of the ball. The immediate phrasing requirement was added to the rulebook in 2011.
Hamilton fans can claim that ruling it a fumble but giving the Alouettes possession is a way to address the video evidence but find away to rule against the Tiger-Cats that is not allowed by the rules. Except it is a valid interpretation and why the immediate phrasing was added. It is also why coaches instruct players when they see a loose ball after a whistle to fall on it. There is no point to try and pick it up and advance it because the ruling will only grant possession at point of recovery.
Now if Hamilton supporters and coach Austin want to argue that this instance passed the test of immediate, that is different. However, the rules committee has not seen it necessary to define immediate in this context. If Austin’s perception of what constitutes immediate is different, then he should have focused on raising that with the rules committee through Scott Mitchell in the off-season. Coach Austin can bring the definition of immediate up in the off-season for a future rule change, but I doubt the other clubs will see the value in allowing scrums for footballs after whistles to determine possession if a fumble is subsequently ruled. Adjusting the definition of immediate can just as well work against you as for you in the future. I can’t see the rule changing to include a timing aspect or some other mechanism to allow the replay official guidance in making these rulings. The immediate recovery takes most of the subjectivity out of the decision.
Why is this? When the whistle blows, the recovery must be immediate and clear. If there is hesitation and/or a battle for the ball, both in this case, the integrity of the play cannot be ensured. When the whistle blows, and there is hesitation, it indicates the player has relaxed because of the whistle. In a scrum it is hard to say who feels the play is ended and who doesn’t and how could have that affected the result. That is why the recovery must be immediate and clear. So players, just fall on those loose balls immediately.
Go ahead and vent on every call against you. Had the opposite happened, Hamilton would have been defending the rulebook and officials in that light. However, it is impossible to have it both ways. Sometimes it will go against you. And though perhaps fun and entertaining to believe that everyone is against you, the league doesn’t want you to win and many other conspiracy theories, they don’t help your cause and adds to the negativity on the league. Scribes telling you an officiating crew and replay official are against (or biased against) Hamilton provides the built in excuse the city needs. Excuses lead to negativity and negativity is a condition that prevents success. Long term success is impossible without positivity and believing that obstacles and setbacks can be overcome.