The NRL Referees System Is Broken More Than Ever Before

Accountability is a word prominently used throughout the business world.

It’s about being assigned responsibility for something you have done, or something you are supposed to do.  Admitting an error is part of this.

Right now the level of accountability in the National Rugby League referee ranks is low after two massive blunders over the past fortnight.

Surely time is up on the Bernard Sutton experiment and former boss Tony Archer, whose involvement is in the background.

Canberra Raiders fans and Gold Coast Titans fans are singing from the same song sheet with any chances of making the finals impossible after separate ref errors.

Rookie Rooster’s ‘try’ disgrace

Just under a week ago, we were dumbfounded by the decision to award Sean O’Sullivan a four pointer with video officials Bryan Norrie and Steve Chiddy ruling in favour of the rookie Rooster.  Referee boss Sutton admitted the decision was wrong and Chiddy suffered the punishment of being banished this week.  Norrie survived and was named video official for the Warriors match with Melbourne.

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Ricky’s Raiders robbed

Two games later and five days apart, the attention turns to touch judge Rickey McFarlane putting up his flag accidentally which resulted in Cronulla extending their lead by eight points over Canberra with twenty-three minutes to play.  Despite Gerard Sutton’s on-field call of no try, video officials Luke Patten and Henry Perenara gave the green light.  McFarlane for his troubles has been stood down.

What will become of Henry Perenara in The Bunker – never to return?  Should Gerard Sutton have stopped play immediately after pausing a few times to consider blowing his whistle?  Is he also as responsible for the incident?

There’s no doubt in this case the touch judge has been thrown under the bus, given a death sentence where accountability should also lay with The Bunker and Sutton, who was within his right to stop and call an end to the play.

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These two individual incidents underline the problems within the referee ranks.

Is there a referee standard?

As a fan more than ever, you cannot simply turn up to a ground having any confidence over whether you will see a spectacle or whether the men in the middle will decide to referee to the letter of the law.  The first few weeks was the play the ball, then up until Origin it felt there was a quota of twenty penalties that needed to be blown.  Now it feels we’re back to 2017 standards.

We have waved goodbye to the leading referee Matt Cecchin and welcomed in Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein as our number one and two.  I’m not sure what Cecchin has done wrong and I still consider him the best referee in the competition, hands down.

Remember Klein’s controversial penalty given to Brisbane earlier on this season at Campbelltown which handed the visitors a controversial win?  Despite this, he’s still considered our second best ref.

Klein was also the referee in the Panthers match against Brisbane on Friday who failed to sanction Josh McGuire and Anthony Milford for pulling at the hair of Corey Harawira-Naera on separate occasions.

Maybe round 19 isn’t meant to be a week where the officials go by the letter of the law.

What will the officials ‘clamp down’ on in round 20?

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Accountability will only happen when it suits

The buck stops with Bernard Sutton – he is accountable for the mess that we see each week.

There will be more dramas ahead and having the boss related to current match officials doesn’t feel right and can remove impartiality.  Most of all, it isn’t a good look on the game.

Can we be guaranteed that if Gerard or Chris make a bad call that brother Bernard will hold them accountable?

It feels that accountability will happen only when it suits and when it does occur, a scapegoat will be taking 100% of the responsibility for the error.


OPINION: Don’t Blame the Bunker


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