That question-accusation is a tame retelling of what I see spat at rugby league officials every weekend, at all levels in our game.
For thirty years I have experienced teammates, coaches, managers, trainers, club officials, and team supporters mistake passion for abuse.
From a rugby league supporters level I have heard respected senior coaches, commentators, and players regularly imply that referees have been responsible for outcomes in an eighty minutes. From juniors all the way to the NRL, the accountability of a loss is shunted because it seems we as a sport do not have the minerals to mature beyond the adolescence in our game.
The Cronulla Sharks succumbed to the North Queensland Cowboys by a field goal in an extra time thriller on Sunday. It was grit, it was grind, it was contentious. There were 50-50 calls both ways, and were the result reversed it may very well have been Paul Green reading from a list of grievances at a press conference.
Though I very much doubt it.
Putting things into context Cronulla are the second-most penalised side in their own red zone behind only Newcastle, and they spend nowhere near the same amount of time in their red zone as Newcastle. They deliberately concede red zone penalties to disrupt and discourage the opposition attack.
During the regular season these tactics landed some close and contentious wins for Cronulla. But as the saying goes “live by the sword, die by the sword”.
Shane Flanagan has next to zero right to question those decisions publicly because of his obvious bias, and his team’s obvious tactics.
Fair play there were some tough calls, the Jayden Brailey charge down was rough. Andrew Fifita did not knock the ball on when it went through his legs, but those have been called a knock on all year.
Confusingly James Maloney’s sin bin enraged Flanagan. Maloney is a notoriously negative defender who got caught out making a bad decision on a Cowboys try scoring opportunity. Which is just about word-for-word verbatim on the ruling for a professional foul. Flanno’s view – no professional foul.
Late in the game Matt Prior was making a tackle and had his hands on the ball, replays show a motion forcing the ball out. Could be a strip, could be poor ball security. These have been a 50-50 all year and most likely always would be. North Queensland level the scores. Flanno’s view – scrum Cronulla.
Gallen in the dying moments forces his hand and reaches out for the line instead of focusing on a quick and clean play the ball for his halves to ice the game, it’s messy and the ball pops out. Flanno’s view – penalty Cronulla.
Extra time Fifita crabbed across searching to recreate his watershed Origin moment, his loose carry and North Queensland defensive pressure resulted in a knock on. Flanno’s view – no comment.
Poor Cronulla defensive decisions, poor Cronulla attacking decisions, and two unlucky calls. Not really robbed is it?
Rather than deliver a venomous manifesto to the refs why not set an example to your team and club, call your players out for their mistakes, push them to be better next year, push for an adapted style to an ever changing game?
No praise for Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, the Cowboys, and Paul Green for a hard-fought and deserved win. Just a bucket of hate for the officials.
The stakes may be high at this time of the year, but it seems among the exiting teams strength of character is not.