Can pink-shirted NRL refs survive a few F-bombs?
Jarryd Hayne is cornered by two referees. (AAP Image/Action Photographics,Colin Whelan)
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 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, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious
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