Consistent refereeing is what water polo needs

The Australian men’s team lost the final to the USA at the recent Pan Pacs tournament in Melbourne 10 : 11.

According to the AWPI’s media report “…the US were all class leading at half time and three-quarter time to stamp their authority on the match, before the Sharks showcased their bravery and never say die attitude to mount a fabulous come back and even the contest at full time…”

I did not watch it and cannot say whether the above is a correct reflection upon the match. I however looked at the available statistical data and believe that the Australian team has some reasons to feel optimistic notwithstanding the loss. The main being that Australia scored 8 field goals out of 10. USA scored 3 from 11.

For those who do not know what it means, a “field” is the goal that is scored as the result of natural attacking actions not through extra-man or penalty shot opportunities. Australia’s balance is better and it is a positive indicator.

Australia had 10 extra-man opportunities and converted into goals 2 (20%) compared to USA’s 16 with 5 conversions (31%).

Australia had 0 penalty shots in its favour. USA – 3.

Australia had 19 turn-over (TF) calls against them. USA – 10. A “turn-over call” changes possession of the ball in favour of a defending team. In the subject match, Australia received almost twice as many TFs during its attack as the opposition.

Statistical data may or may not be a true reflection of a team’s performance. It
may well be that the ratio of exclusions and turn-over fouls are justified. For example, one team might play a “zone” system in defence whereby there is not much physical contact between opponents whilst another do “press” thus giving a referee more reasons for exclusions.

In this vein, some coaches count on a ref being too weak to officiate consistently throughout the entire match and call it as it is.

These coaches would use the tactics of “killing” an opponent’s centre-forward and perimeter attackers by “ironing” them way over that allowed by the rules.

What also is true is that in an even match 2-3 “right” calls “at the right time” may have a profound effect on its outcome.

A champion team is the one that minimizes the number of field goals scored against them and has a positive percentage in extra-man attacking and defensive actions’ statistics.

A true champion team is the one who has twice as many negative calls against them and still wins a match. Even if you get a biased or incompetent referee, all they can do is to give opposition exclusions; they cannot score goals for them.

I appreciate that water polo is a complex game and interpretations of playing actions by different officials can vary, as referees are humans not machines. However, the main characteristic of good and fair refereeing is consistency.

My position as coach has always been “I am not asking for favours, just give me competency and a fair go!”

In my experience, as a member of the Soviet team, we sometimes felt that refereeing was biased against us. That subjective feeling was often supported by unfavourable statistical data. However, in most European, World and Olympic finals, in which I participated either as a player or Australian coach, referees were good. They were rising to the occasions and behaved themselves.

The referees of the final men’s Pan Pacs match between AUS and USA in Melbourne were Jean Francois Mortsseau (Canada) and Joseph Werner (Brazil).

The below statistics are those of an earlier match:

Sydney, 6 January 2012
AUS 11 USA 8
Referees: Daniel Bartels (AUS), Noel Harrod (AUS)
AUS: had 13 X-man opportunities, scored 7 (54% conversion), defended 3 from 6 (50%)
USA: had 6 X-man opportunities, scored 3 (50%), defended 6 from 13 (46%)
In that match USA received at least twice as many turn-over calls against them as Australia.

About Erkin Эркин Shagaev Шагаев
European, world, Olympic champion, two times World Cup winner Чемпион Европы, мира, Олимпийских игр, двукратный обладатель Кубка мира

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