Cameras never lie - but whole truth isn't told May 31, 2006 The Trent Barrett affair has exposed a conflict of interest between TV directors and video referees, writes Andrew Stevenson. AdvertisementAdvertisement MATTHEW Johns is a top-drawer TV talent. Like the five-eighth he once was, when he calls for the ball - or the camera, as it is now - he usually gets it. He called last Friday night when his old Knights playing mate Danny Buderus got up groggy after trying to stop a Dragons kick. Johns waltzed on to camera to tell viewers of the ordeal Buderus had put himself through, backing up from State of Origin. Good television. Only problem is, down the other end of the park, Knights winger Brian Carney had been taken out by Trent Barrett's cocked forearm, spilling the ball and conceding a scrum to the Dragons. If the incident - which only came to light three days later when a junior Channel Nine employee saw it while reviewing the weekend's tapes and alerted the NRL - had been picked up at the time, the outcome of the match might well have been altered. But in football, as in life, timing is everything. The Barrett demolition job - for which the Dragons skipper has been outed for six weeks - has revealed some curious anomalies in the role of the video referee, in particular how his job is at the mercy of the Channel Nine director. This time, everyone missed Barrett's high shot - referee Tony Archer, the watching reporters and the entire Nine commentary team. Only one of the 12 Channel Nine cameras had a clear view of it, although neither the cameraman nor the director had any idea of its significance. Had either of the two seen it, Nine would have shown it - and if they had shown a replay, the video referee, Chris Ward, could have alerted Archer to how bad it was. But only if - and when - Nine decided to show a replay. The video ref can act only on the same footage punters at home watch and cannot request a replay from the television director. If Nine had put slow-motion vision to air before the scrum was packed, it might well have been Barrett sent packing. At the very least, the knock-on would have been overturned and a penalty awarded. But if the footage had come later - for instance because Johns was midstream, talking - Barrett would have stayed free until the match review committee sat down to work. The worst that could have happened would have been his being called out and placed on report - the veritable attack of the wet lettuce leaf. Clearly, there are moments in the game when all power rests with the director, sitting out the back in a big truck staring at 20 TV screens and worrying about the fans at home. If he runs footage before play restarts, or waits, the outcome can vary - significantly. What if the director is a Dragons supporter and decides not to show the footage? Or an ambitious would-be executive willing, say, Parramatta - a team with a huge TV following - into a grand final instead of the unwatched, unloved Melbourne Storm? That would never happen, of course. But the fact it can be speculated upon shows the fallibility of the set-up. Bill Harrigan, former whistleblower and now video referee, concedes he and the director are doing two different jobs: "We're up there to try and get it right 100 per cent; they're up there to show good TV." It's clear the tempo of the match will dictate when a replay is shown - if at all. "Sometimes, because the game is ripping and tearing, they won't stop for it, they'll just keep going live," said Harrigan. "It may mean one team may get disadvantaged because something may happen and play is allowed to proceed - compared to another incident where it may have been stopped." Based on a TV replay, the video ref can alert the referee to "an absolute 100 per cent" mistake made if the replay airs before play resumes and can also chip in before a try is awarded. "If there was a blatant offside and I can see him getting ready to award that try, then I would then come straight in and say, 'Check it'," explained Harrigan. There's no doubt players are coached to try to give everyone - the TV director, the video ref and the whistleman - time to do their jobs. "You stay down so they can have a look at it but you're not actually faking it because you generally did get hit," explained recent retiree Jason Stevens. Harrigan conceded the obvious. "I've got no doubt clubs are aware of that - but that's as a far as I'd go. You'd be naive to say they're not." Nine finds itself in a dilemma. Endless replays are a turn-off, as are stoppages. It's the job of a television station to entertain. Nine's director of sport Steve Crawley is terrified of playing cop. "My strongest feeling is I think that Nine should never become involved in the policing of rugby league," he said.