A weekend filled with controversial calls from referees has hit a climax with Ricky Stuart’s abrupt press conference in Canberra.
After a disappointing 24-12 loss to Brisbane, Canberra’s Stuart addressed the media for only 24 seconds before walking out.
Frustrated with the performance of referees Gavin Badger and Chris Sutton, the Raiders coach said it would be “a lot healthier for our club if I don’t go any further into this press conference”.
Ricky Stuart isn’t the only coach facing a fine, with Titans coach Neil Henry also in hot water after expressing his annoyance at the officiating in the Titans narrow loss to the Rabbitohs. Henry criticised the referee’s performance not only in the post-match interview but on Triple M radio two days later.
With the NRL banning any direct and indirect comments about officials, the balance between protecting referees and having coaches fulfill media duties is a fine line and has left coaches without many options when it comes to voicing their opinions.
Neil Henry’s choice to speak out against some poor calls and Ricky Stuart’s decision to walk away from a similar situation stand apart as starkly different approaches, yet both are expected to be fined in upcoming days.
Protecting referees from criticism is important for the game, especially for referee participation at grassroots level. However, both Stuart and Henry had to front the media immediately after being frustrated by refereeing with little to no time to gather themselves from unsatisfactory game results.
Heat of the moment interviews will always result in emotional and potentially controversial statements, particularly from the losing team. The decision to walk away with composure, rather than openly and repeatedly criticise is one that should be applauded, rather than punished.