Can pink-shirted NRL refs survive a few F-bombs?

Chris Chard Columnist

By Chris Chard, Chris Chard is a Roar Expert

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    Jarryd Hayne can pontificate his love for Parramatta, but he's betrayed the club. (AAP Image/Action Photographics,Colin Whelan)

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    Professional sport has seen some massive changes over the years. Footy players no longer look like your local Garbo with a bit more facial hair.

    Sports nutrition means more than just choosing the Filet-o-Fish at Maccas, and streakers have gone from being viewed as beloved downtime distractions to dangerous anti-social anarchists.

    One thing that hasn’t changed though is players taking out their frustrations on the poor, skinny blokes running alongside them with the whistle trying to remember the rules.

    For as long as there’s been sport there have been match officials, with the skinny caveman likely to have been bullied into keeping the two rockball teams onside sometime back in 200BC.

    Some people actually like being the ref, for with officialdom comes power – and maybe even a flag!

    Problem is that with power comes responsibility, and with the responsibility the likelihood of being badgered mercilessly by the people you are in fact responsible for (hello to any parents or schoolteachers reading this).

    Round eight of the NRL saw two obvious examples of refs bearing the brunt of player frustrations.

    The one everyone is talking about is ‘Scary’ Steve Matai’s bump on Brett Suttor.

    Not really for the fact that Matai did it – c’mon, the bloke’s water bottles are filled with the tears of endangered animals – but for the fact that he didn’t injure his neck in the process.

    This one should be pretty cut and dried. Steve Matai isn’t supposed to be playing Origin next week so chances are he’ll get done for it.

    The one that appears to have been swept under the carpet like Blocker Roach’s baby photos is Jamie Soward’s spray of Matt Cecchin in the ANZAC game.

    Soward verbally unloaded point blank like Cecchin was a parking inspector he had caught stealing his hubcaps, with the ref summarily penalising him in a decision that should have decided the game, save for the Roosters great chicken choke.

    With the Dragons’ last minute victory the moment has become a funny footnote on the game’s epic ending, but, umm, is everybody cool with that?

    Swearing is a strange topic in that it is one of the few grey areas that still exist in professional sport (the other being Corey Parker’s temples).

    Unlike its ugly big brother vilification, swearing is, depending on how and where you grow up, either the greatest non-issue since Shane Hayne’s hair highlights or a blight on the game of Hunter Mariner proportions.

    Every now and then big-time rugby league and swearing will cross paths. Mal Meninga’s pre-Origin address in 94. Wests Tigers grand final victory lap in ’05. Whenever the camera shows Craig Bellamy in the coach’s box.

    There is generally some outrage from the usual suspects and muttering about ‘setting an example’ and ‘role models’ etc, but if it’s acceptable for the former prime minister to launch into a F-bomb tirade whenever someone stuffs up his cup of tea then surely footy players on the brink of physical exhaustion should be cut some slack.

    Swearing directly at refs though should remain a distinct no-no, especially for highly paid professional players. Not because the refs can’t take it – let’s face it, those masochists have been bagged for years.

    But more for the fact that a certain level of decorum should remain between player and referee, and it would be a sad state of affairs if the referee had to sprint 40m after each decision like the Bondi Vet fleeing a gaggle of lonely housewives at Westfield Warrawong as they currently do in soccer.

    After all, if you can’t respect a bloke wearing a tight pink shirt, short shorts and long socks, then who can you respect eh?

    [CENSORED] if I know.

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @Vic_Arious

    Chris Chard
    Chris Chard

    Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious

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    The Crowd Says (37)

    • April 30th 2012 @ 9:38am
      Gareth said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      One part of league that could be spiced up with a bit of choice language would be the god awful team announcement press conferences. I’d be much more interested in hearing that “Jarryd F***ing Hayne has been named to take on That C*** Billy Slater” than hearing a dejected old man recite a disappointing team list in unfaltering monotone. It’s either that or adopting the hilariously awesome spectacle that Queensland provided us with last year.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 10:06am
      Pewkatronic said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Cecchin’s penalty was a massive overreaction – an example of a referee putting his ego before the good of the game.

      That said, though, introducing swear jar to the NRL would be a good way of providing extra funding to clubs.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 10:13am
      Matt F said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      You really have to wonder just how thick some players really are. It’s not exactly a secret that if you mouth off to the ref/umpire then you’ll get a larger penalty. No amount of abuse is ever going to change their minds and you can only hurt your team so why do it?

      • Roar Guru

        April 30th 2012 @ 12:15pm
        The Barry said | April 30th 2012 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        The players getting mixed messages though Matt. If you recall Jonathan Thurstons going off at a ref from a season or two ago and nothing happening to him.

        Braith Anasta and Jamie Lyon (among many, many others) are in the refs faces every time they blow the whistle and while they may not be swearing they certainly don’t speak to refs with any respect. Again, no action.

        I’d be happy for the refs to clamp down on it because I’d hate footy to go down the path of soccer with players circling the ref and screaming at him.

        By the same token the refs need to start speaking to the players a bit better. None of this “Michael, Michael go away I’ll tell you later” like we heard on Friday night (why do refs always say players names twice – “Braith, Braith back with me” or “Jamie, Jamie get off him Jamie”.

        I’d also make it compulsory for refs to call the players by their number and the players to call the ref sir, like the old days.

        • April 30th 2012 @ 12:24pm
          Matt F said | April 30th 2012 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Very true. I actually made that in another comment below. Consistency is the key

        • April 30th 2012 @ 2:45pm
          joe blackswan said | April 30th 2012 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

          “I’d also make it compulsory for refs to call the players by their number and the players to call the ref sir, like the old days.”
          Totally agree. It is embarrassing to watch professional players (adult men) constantly swear and mouth off at a ref….nowhere else do you see that in life, it is disgraceful.
          This is one quality that rugby has over NRL and AFL….refs should be able to bin players for this conduct (particularly in the AFL).

          Found it a bit disappointing the author chose to label refs as skinny, power hungry masochists. Anyone who plays amateur sports (aussie rules, league, soccer, basketball, netball etc) knows your club/team has to help provide refs for other games in your competition and we are encouraged/roped into performing this duty voluntarily…the last thing we would want is to endure a barrage of foul mouthed ignorance, which is what is promoted in the professional code.

          • April 30th 2012 @ 3:50pm
            turbodewd said | April 30th 2012 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

            I agree 100%. Professionalism requires that the ref should simply call the player number 12 and the ref should be called ‘sir’.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 10:21am
      steggz said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      I think that’s the big difference. There’s swearing at a referee, and swearing in the vicinity of a ref. Now if Soward swore at the ref, he deserved the penalty. (I say that as I wear my ’99 St George Illawarra jersey). Sporting officials need to be treated with a level of respect that their position deserves, not necessarily because they make all the right decisions (because the drop-out call was wrong, and that’s what led to the Soward mouth-off).

      Remember what happened to Gordon Tallis when he called Harrigan a cheat. Exactly what should have been done. He got sent from the field straight away. Umps and refs shouldn’t have to put up with (a lot of) the crap players give them. Sure, they can disagree with decisions, but there has to be a way and a means of doing so which doesn’t descend to those levels.

      • April 30th 2012 @ 3:41pm
        Pot Stirrer said | April 30th 2012 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        I agree, The whole thought process needs to change towards the referees. Its no wonder they cop abuse at junior games when so called experts and leaders of the game criticise the refs after 10 replays and mostly obscure angles that dont show the correct veiw.
        The ref is on the field in the best possible position to make the correct call. Everybody has bagged the ref without knowing what soward said. As a supporter i get fustrated with some calls but its better to move on becuase a decision cant be reversed than to ruin the hole game by continually bagging the refs. If we dont have refs then we dont have a game and who would want to be a ref to cop abuse from people with anger issues at junior games or self serving media hungry experts with agendas in NRL.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 10:42am
      turbodewd said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      I still cant believe no action was taken against Steve Mattai when he deliberately used his left arm to graze/bump the ref as he trotted past on friday nights game. He got marched 10m for it, it should have been instant send off. Total disrespect for the ref. I cant believe only the ABC’s Offsiders program picked this up.

      • April 30th 2012 @ 11:09am
        eagleJack said | April 30th 2012 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        Im pretty sure there will be a charge laid against Matai. No need for that in the game. Whether it was a penalty or not (I’m of the belief he was on-side) is irrelevant.

        The trouble is that disrespecting the ref is part and parcel of Rugby League. Look at how Thurston repeatedly gets away with swearing and accusing the refs of making “big calls” against his side. Admittedly he has improved out of sight of late (I imagine he had a stern talking to) but the inaction on one of the games greats has set a dangerous precedent. Audio picks up a lot these days and it certainly isn’t a good look.

        • April 30th 2012 @ 11:33am
          Matt F said | April 30th 2012 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          That’s a good point. If the referees let it go then the players will start to think that they can get away with it. It can also be very frustrating when some referees will have a zero-tolerance approach to swearing etc whilst others some seem to let more go. The ARLC needs to ensure that all referees take the same stance on this issue, which should be a zero-tolerance approach.

          • Columnist

            April 30th 2012 @ 11:56am
            Ryan O'Connell said | April 30th 2012 @ 11:56am | ! Report

            I honestly didn’t think there was anything in the Matai incident at all, but I’ve only see one angle.

            Was it honestly bad?

            • April 30th 2012 @ 12:07pm
              Matt F said | April 30th 2012 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

              It wasn’t a massive hit, more of brush/minor bump it did look deliberate. His elbow did leave his body at the very same time that he passed the ref. Regardless of the severity of contact, any deliberate bump of the referee needs to be taken very seriously.

            • April 30th 2012 @ 12:08pm
              turbodewd said | April 30th 2012 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

              He ran right next to the ref and nudged him. He should have been marched instantly. The nudge was modest.

            • Roar Guru

              April 30th 2012 @ 12:17pm
              The Barry said | April 30th 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

              I didn’t think there was anything in it. If it was someone other than Matai the reaction wouldn’t be as strong.

              • April 30th 2012 @ 12:39pm
                Pot Stirrer said | April 30th 2012 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

                It was immediatley after he was penalised wasnt it? I suspect it was a deliberate action from a player who is very aggressive on the field.

            • Columnist

              April 30th 2012 @ 1:22pm
              Chris Chard said | April 30th 2012 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

              And It looks like Matai will face no charges at the big J….witnesses to scared to testify? 😉

              • April 30th 2012 @ 2:13pm
                eagleJack said | April 30th 2012 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

                Happy to hear that from a Manly perspective but a little surprised. Very little in it but it was a deliberate act.

                We’ll be close to full strength against the Raiders on Sun.

              • April 30th 2012 @ 3:46pm
                BennO said | April 30th 2012 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

                Only just saw this and it seems disgraceful to me. Maybe I’m overreacting but the referee should be literally untouchable. I realise it was a small hit, it was a nothing hit if it was another player but it’s the ref for crying out loud. I can’t believe they aren’t going to charge him.

                Good luck with finding consistency the next time a ref gets “accidentally” elbowed by a player running past.

              • Roar Guru

                May 1st 2012 @ 1:42pm
                The Barry said | May 1st 2012 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

                I really thought Matai went past the ref giving him a spray, Suttor heard him and turned into Matai. I think the 10 metres was for the spray not the contact.

    • April 30th 2012 @ 10:51am
      Pot Stirrer said | April 30th 2012 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      It is a highly aggressive name with lots of sledging and niggle in it. The players are the fiercest of competitors who are trained to the max to get a winning performance, ofcourse they are going to get fustrated with refs, However as a professional sportsman they have to be able to control thier aggression and if they over step the mark with the ref then they should be penalised regardless of anything.
      Soward got it wrong and admitted as much to his credit, its irrelevant if the ref gets a decision wrong. I do believe the captain however should be able to debate a decision with the ref in such an instance. It was a critical call and they should have lost the match becuase of it. I wonder if his teammates would be as understanding with soward had they lost.

      • April 30th 2012 @ 11:52am
        turbodewd said | April 30th 2012 @ 11:52am | ! Report

        Hmm, I think NRL players spend far too long querying referees on their decisions. The game shud not stop for such chatting, I have no issues with the captain approaching the ref at a break in play. But they shud never call time off for it.

        • April 30th 2012 @ 1:25pm
          Meesta Cool said | April 30th 2012 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

          Certain captains query every decision made against them, It slows the game and lets their team get ready for the penalty .. It annoys me to watch Thurston Lyon and a few more, wasting the refs time. the general consensus is that the red will not change his decision, so why argue.

          Changing the subject: did anyone see Thurston openly berate his team mates during the first half of Saturdays game,, It’s a wonder that they have any team spirit at all. Maybe this brilliant player should be stood down from captain and let someone with ‘people skills’ take on the roll.

          • Columnist

            April 30th 2012 @ 1:33pm
            Chris Chard said | April 30th 2012 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            Hi MC

            Ahhh the old blow up between team mates, is there anything funnier in professional sport?

            There’s been some beauties over the years, anyone remember Craig Fitzgibbon giving it to Brett Finch, or Brett Mullins giving one of the ‘Super macs’ a clip over the ear?

            • Roar Guru

              April 30th 2012 @ 6:15pm
              apaway said | April 30th 2012 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

              Great article, Chris, had me in stitches with the bit about Matai not hurting his neck.

              A few years ago in the EPL a couple of Newcastle players started belting each other. The ref sent them both off!

          • April 30th 2012 @ 9:52pm
            Jeff McGinn said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

            Meesta Cool Watch JT in every game, If he doesn’t get his way or things go wrong, he dummy spits, sulks and abuses everyone around him, 100% correct he is NOT captain material. and your other comment on him being a brilliant player cannot be questioned.

            on the subject of players querying the refs, it is a growing trend for all players to ask questions, this should definitely be stopped. the captain is the only person who should communicate with the officials.

            In the sixties there was a ref , I think his name was Eric Clay or something similar (Commentators nicknamed him ‘The Sergeant Major’). If anyone had sworn at him, they would have had a walk to the dressing rooms and in his words “Go for an early shower”, the refs today have lost that forcefulness.

        • April 30th 2012 @ 2:20pm
          Pot Stirrer said | April 30th 2012 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

          i agree with you but that was a crucial moment and i wished the roosters took a quick tap but they shouldnt have been allowed to becuase of that type of penaly. Just an opinion but like i said i agree with you, we dont need more stoppages in the game.

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