If you stick around long enough in rugby league you’ll know that at some point, on almost every topic, you’ll be making a trip Back to the Future.
Sometimes, like Marty McFly, you’ll be going waaay back, and on other occasions it might be just a quick skip back into the recent past.
This week we’re filling up the flux capacitor in the DeLorean and returning to a date of your choosing, because the topic that has reared its head again is an area of the game that is debated on an annual basis: sin bins, and how long they should last for.
Yes, there’s been plenty of them in 2023 – 44 to be precise – and the argument from those wanting either fewer of them or a shorter duration off the field for the sinners, is that too many games are being decided by a referee marching a player for a range of offences.
And as night follows day the cries have gone up that we should re-introduce the five minute sin bin for indiscretions that fall on the lighter end of the scale.
It’s not an original idea and it’s been floated at some point in most seasons since the NRL removed the option of sending players to the sin bin for either five minutes or 10 minutes almost 20 years ago.
The problem is that the experts, fans, coaches or club officials wanting to see the five minute option brought back in have either a short memory or haven’t made enough trips around the sun to know why we did away with two alternatives when it came to using the sin bin.
If you think the current application of the rules is causing controversy, just wait and see what happens if the NRL once again decides to give referees the ability to send players to the sin bin for five minutes OR 10 minutes.
Quite frankly, when referees had that option it was chaotic. Arguments raged pretty much every time a sin binning occurred, with the rugby league-watching public divided down the middle as to whether a player should be given a five or 10 minute breather to contemplate what he’d just done.
Trust me, you don’t need a DeLorean to know that it would take only a couple of rounds of football before the phrase ‘where’s the consistency’ would be the most-used term at post-game media conferences.
And besides, it’s not as though having a player sin-binned means a team automatically goes on to lose a game, or that the sin-binning has an effect in deciding the result.
When Hudson Young was correctly sin-binned for a professional foul in the final 60 seconds of the game between the Raiders and Dragons last Sunday it didn’t change the outcome of the game, but his sin-binning adds to the increased tally that critics are now using for saying there’s too many instances where 13 plays 12.
There have been 35 tries scored in 44 sin bin situations over the opening seven rounds.
It’s less than one try per dismissal.
And out of those 44 sin bins, the team that has been reduced to 12 players has either held their opponents scoreless or outscored the team with 13 men on 16 occasions.
When you consider all of that, it should only take you about five minutes to know you should have kept the DeLorean in the garage.
Warren Smith is one of the country’s leading sports broadcasters. He currently calls the NRL for Fox League.