Slamming referees is a scourge on rugby league

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    That was the best opening weekend of an NRL finals series I can ever remember.

    Three out of the four games were decided by two points or less, and each game had controversy.

    There were some spectacular tries, like Latrell Mitchell single-handedly scoring in the 75th minute to seal a win for the Sydney Roosters against the Brisbane Broncos, or Melbourne’s try featuring at least eight pairs of Storm hands before Billy Slater finally put the ball down.

    History was created when Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger became the first women to officiate during a finals series. And we had the opportunity to celebrate one of the greatest players of all time, Cameron Smith, as he broke the record for appearances, playing his 356th game in the NRL.

    Finals football is special and something to be savoured. The game changes in September. It is a new competition and anything can happen. The Cowboys proved that when they beat the reigning premiers by a point, despite no one giving them a chance before the game had started.

    For fans, finals football means a great deal. Tempers flare. Joy is infectious. Even if your team isn’t playing, it’s hard not to get caught up in the emotion of it.

    With the stakes so high, it’s unsurprising that there were some moments which generated controversy and, of course, officiating was the centre of attention.

    In the post-match press conferences, three out of four losing coaches referred to either the referee or the Bunker in their assessment. It’s something we have been seeing all season.

    When asked what the difference between the Melbourne Storm and the Parramatta Eels was on Saturday afternoon, Brad Arthur said “the Bunker”.

    Then there was Trent Barrett, who blamed two refereeing decisions for the end of Manly’s season.

    “What I would like is the Bunker and Tony Archer and the referees to go into my shed and explain to my players that their season is now finished on the back of those two calls,” a clearly agitated Barrett told the media.

    But neither came close to the performance of Shane Flanagan, who had the nerve to come to his press conference with a list of seven decisions that he said cost his team a semi-finals berth.

    Interestingly, I didn’t hear Flanagan refer to the Sharks getting the benefit of a 50-50 call early on, when Antonio Winterstein lost the ball but then appeared to ground it on his goal-line before Chad Townsend grounded it for a try. He also failed to mention Cronulla’s 17 errors, a completion rate of 26 out of 43 sets, and a whopping 38 missed tackles.

    Even more astounding is that back in 2013 when the Sharks beat the Cowboys 20-18 after Beau Ryan scored in a seven-tackle set, Flanagan made a point of insisting that there had been nothing ‘sinister’ in the decision and recognised that referees are human and make mistakes.

    Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    (AAP Image/Jane Dempster)

    If you listen to the media and the fans, rugby league has several problems. Crowds. Ticket prices. Scheduling.

    None of these come close to what is one of the most significant problems our game has: a culture of players, coaches, commentators and fans having the audacity to blame a referee when their team loses.

    It’s embarrassing and it’s petulant. It makes our game look childish, and gives the impression our coaches and players are unable to take responsibility for their own actions. It suggests there’s always someone else to blame.

    Todd Greenberg should be applauded for coming out yesterday and saying that the game needs to grow up. And the $20,000 fines which reportedly will be issued to both Barrett and Flanagan are more than just. Hopefully the NRL take swift action on any other coach who thinks it is appropriate to criticise our officials in a similar manner.

    I don’t have a problem with coaches making suggestions about how the game should be administered. Open dialogue is important. A game that does not take ideas and suggestions from key stakeholders is one that will not move forward. But there is a big problem with the way these coaches conduct themselves.

    We all have a role to play in this. If you are in the media, particularly as a commentator, you have a responsibility to understand the rules of the game so that when you make a comment on a decision it is accurate. It’s not what you think or what you would like to see – you have a responsibility to help educate the fans on the rules and what the correct decision is.

    Where it is a 50-50 decision, you should make that clear and set out your reasons for leaning the way you do, and then not blow up if the referees interpret it a different way.

    If you are a fan who is solely blaming the refs for your team’s loss, you are also part of the problem. I encourage you to go back and watch your team again. Make sure you note down all the errors made, the penalties conceded and the poor options in attack and defence. It’s all those moments put together that contribute to a loss – not a bad call here or there.

    If you are someone who goes on and on about one-sided penalty counts, understand that penalty counts are not there to be even. Just because one side gets a penalty doesn’t mean the other should as well. It is a reflection on discipline and playing in accordance with the rules. Just because one team is better at doing that on the day than another, does not suggest the referees have done a bad job.

    In the end, North Queensland Cowboys coached Paul Green summed it up beautifully, “We didn’t deserve to win that game, but we found a way.”

    Instead of finding a way, the Sharks decided to blow their opportunity and then blame someone else for it.

    Blaming the referees is a scourge on our game – don’t be part of a culture that blames others. As a game, aren’t we better than that?

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (218)

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:36am
      Loosey said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      This comment has been removed for breaching The Roar’s comments policy.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 8:24am
        mushi said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        Oh so referees aren’t bad at their job they are all just criminals…

      • Columnist

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:29am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        If you are trying to make a connection between referee’s and match fixing then I have nothing further to say to you.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 9:55am
          jeandetroyes said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          In fairness to Loosey he/she was actually referring to something called “matching fixing”, not match fixing. Therein lies a clue to his/her intellect. By the way, is it just coincidence that every one of your points and supporting statistics were raised on NRL 360 last night?

        • September 12th 2017 @ 11:01am
          Bill larkin said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          In the sore losers hierarchy, level one is referees’ gross incompetence, level two is a grand conspiracy where they are directed by “others” to get the right result and level three is match fixing, with fortunes made by those in the know. Loosely has gone straight to level three. Childish and embarrassing.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 1:04pm
            Loosey said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

            Cheers Bill! How could I forget the pre-ordained results of state of origin!

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 2:27pm
          BigJ said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

          I agree that the slamming of referees in the Nrl needs to come to an end but the refs have to take charge of their own jobs and make the on field call and have the balls to first make the decision and then stick with it, this chopping and changing is what the problem is, get rid fo the bunker and have the refs make the off field call, after all is this what they are paid for. Back in the day up to the late nineties, the ref amke his call and it was final, regardless whether it was right or wrong. If the refs have no confidence in themselves how can any of us???

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:45am
      Magic Lyrebird said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:45am | ! Report

      Great article Mary, I completely agree. As The Barry pointed out on another thread, the thing about Rugby League is there will ALWAYS be uncertainty, there will ALWAYS be 50/50 calls that could go either way, and there will ALWAYS be the potential for dissatisfaction with the refs, who actually did a brilliant job on the weekend. It breaks my heart that after 4 absolutely fantastic games of footy, what we mostly hear is this hysterical whinging about the ‘disgusting’, ‘pathetic’, ‘sub-standard’ performance of the refs. But it seems to me they got nearly every call right.

      The Peachey ‘knock-on’ is a case in point. On the replay it looked to me, a neutral, as though he might have knocked on, but you couldn’t be sure. The referee awarded try, the bunker confirmed it, correct decision. And yet the boofhead coach carries on as though it was a howler!

      And please, let’s not go back to the days where the ref was allowed to say ‘I’ve got no idea’ and refer the decision upstairs, with ‘the benefit of the doubt’ going to the attacking team. I still remember the agonising stupid TV debates about whether or not there was actually any doubt. With the Peachey try, for example, some would be of the view that there was doubt; others that there was no doubt, Peachey clearly had touched it; and others that there was no doubt, Peachey had clearly not touched it. Let’s just accept that these things are subjective, agree that different people interpret the same event differently, and celebrate the game.

    • Roar Guru

      September 12th 2017 @ 6:47am
      The Barry said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:47am | ! Report

      Couldn’t agree more Mary.

      It also hijacks the narrative. Instead of writing and talking about four great games of footy we’re dealing with this garbage.

      Flanagan is a f-wit. Pre-prepared list?He whines about the decisions but ignores the fact that his team scored two tries from questionable decisions.

      What about Gallen and Fifita both stuffing up FG opportunities?

      The problem we have is it’s impossible to fix. If Cronulla kick a FG and win by a point, Cowboys fans are blowing up about the 50/50 calls that went against them.

      Childish and petulant is 100% correct.

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 7:47am
        Con Scortis said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        Hi TB, I’m glad you mentioned the Gallen play.

        There was about 45 seconds to go and it was the 3rd tackle. On the Nine commentary Sterlo was yelling, “take it now! take it now” – as in, take the field goal now. Sterlo was 100% correct, as Maloney and Townsend were both in a perfect position to pot a field goal. Of course they didn’t “take it now”, because the big dill Gal went for the hero play, as he has done 100 times in the past.

        So, I found it particularly galling seeing Gallen complain about the refs alongside Flanno in the presser. If Gal wants to find someone to blame, he should look in a mirror.

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 8:16am
          The Barry said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

          The other thing is that Gallen, rather than trying to get the quick play the ball, reached out to score holding the ball in the fingertips of one hand in a five man tackle. Big surprise the ball came loose.

          The automatic response from Gallen is not to question his own series of poor decisions but to blow up at the ref for not rewarding his lack of respect for possession or the game situation. Flanagan just adds it to his list.

          • Roar Pro

            September 12th 2017 @ 5:11pm
            Ben Lewis said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

            One of the many reasons that I was so disgusted that he was the captain of our state for so many years.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 8:16am
          Jimmmy said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

          Totally Con. The reason they lost was sittting beside Flanagan in the presser.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 10:25am
            Oingo Boingo said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

            Gee Con , their was a feeling of déjà vu when the big dumb ox put his big fat head down and tried to bullock his way to rugby league folk law.
            I think I’ve seen that exact play about 300 times at SOO level.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 4:45pm
              Rob said | September 12th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

              Gee I miss Gallen playing SOO. He was always regularly saving us Queenslanders when we were out numbered by trying to be the hero. Oh well we still got to watch Hayne and Dugan last series.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:00pm
                JVGO said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

                The definition of childish would be the pathetic self righteous clap trap directed towards Gallen in the last six or seven comments. The whole incident has just been an excuse for all the haters to bare the ridiculous stupid insecurities they haven’t been able to vent for the last 12 months. It’s embarrassing. Flanno was 100% right about the reffing. Every Cronulla fan is 100% behind him. The rest of you can get your kicks from hating someone you’ve never met all you want. It is honestly pathetic.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:13pm
                Matth said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:13pm | ! Report

                So JVGO, every call that went against you was blatantly wrong but every call that went for you was obviously correct? Ok, got it.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:27pm
                Rob said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

                JVGO you’re actually becoming a little entertaining with your ridiculous, pugnacious support of the Sharks team, defending Gallen and Flanagan’s stupidity. Reading your comments is sort of like watching Frank Spencer or Bozo the Clown doing stupid things.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:51am
      Busty McCracken said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      Im a Sea Eagles supporter and 100% agree Mary.

      The dylan walker no try. Seeing as it was deemed a try by the ref, it was a tough call to overrule it especially based on the reasoning for decision for penriths try at end of game but i can live with the decision coz he did look a mm in front to me.

      Uate no try. Same as the broncos no try the night before. The correct call.

      The penrith try. Hard to overrule the no try based on refs on field decision.

      The game finished and i got txts from mates saying tough way to lose. As far as im concerned if manly were good enough they would have overcome these decisions and won but they didn’t. Not the refs fault. They had a successful season and im proud of them.

      Sharks/ cows. Both teams recieved some harsh calls so was a bit rich of flanno to call out just what suited him. Once again if they were good enough they would have overcome those decisions.

      The only sour taste left in my mouth was the melb forward pass try. Given where the ref and touchie were placed and the amount of hands it went through i was stunned they didnt go to the video. Parra played out of their skins and didn’t deserve that but once again mistakes happen and it wasnt in the final 30 seconds

      • September 12th 2017 @ 8:36am
        Duncan Smith said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        Right, so you agree 100% with Mary’s article except for the one involving Melbourne. Typical Sydney fan.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 9:10am
          Busty McCracken said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          I live in Nth qld but way to jump to conclusions mate. As i mentioned given where the refs were situated, the amount of hands the ball went through and the context of the game i am stunned they didn’t opt to go to the video ref. I even closed with..still, mistakes happen and it didn’t decide the outcome of the game but whatever.

          Am merely saying of all the controversy this weekend this is the only one i can understand the controversy.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 12:54pm
            Albo said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

            Totally agree with you Busty ! And for all the reasons you have outlined ! You had a referee and linesman there adjacent to the incident . The ball somehow went 2 metres forward, and yet the linesman had no issue, the referee thought a Parra hand knocked it forward, but he did not use the “insurance of accuracy” option of a bunker review that he had available to him. Replays showed no Parra hand on the ball ? The process wasn’t used by the referee, and a likely wrong decision was made. In the Manly v Penrith game the processes were followed and all the decisions were found to be correct. In the Cowboys v Sharks game the processes were followed which left us with a couple of 50/50 decisions on tries , which went one a piece to the teams.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 3:36pm
          Chui said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

          Typical generalisation based on complete ignorance

    • September 12th 2017 @ 7:14am
      KingCowboy said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      Mary I have enjoyed almost all of your articles over the years concerning Rugby League but this may one be your best yet. Great read!

      Now that is where the nice words ends. I hope we pump your boys on Saturday night. My mind goes back to a 2005 Prelim Final where not many people gave us a chance. A young skinny kid had come to our team and was having a great year Final score 29-0 to the good guys. Hope history repeats!

      • Columnist

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Thanks so much for your kind words KingCowboy and seriously, all the best for the weekend. I’m tipping the Cows for the premiership next year – despite not having some of your best players at points throughout the season your men have dug deep and you should be exceptionally proud.

        I still remember that game in 2005… I had a big crush on Tim Smith back then.

        • Roar Pro

          September 12th 2017 @ 5:15pm
          Ben Lewis said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

          We still owe you payback from 2005… and I sincerely hope it comes this weekend. Eight years in the wilderness; I’m not ready to bow out in straight sets.

          That being said, if we absolutely have to lose, I would much rather lose to the Cowboys than the Sharks, so good luck to your boys. I hope they do the region proud once more, but to be in the position they are in at the moment after the year from hell regarding injuries is something special in itself.

          Just hope the run comes to a screeching Saturday halt 😉

    • September 12th 2017 @ 7:17am
      BennO said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

      Also agree 100%

      Suggestion to the eds though, change headline from slamming to whining about the refs. Slam suggests some kind of effective contact or comment. These guys didn’t slam anyone or anything they only succeeded in making themselves look like gooses.

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