Top NRL referee Matt Cecchin says he will retire at the end of this season after a making a decision two weeks ago that left him “scared” to leave his hotel room.
Cecchin told the Sydney Morning Herald a drop in confidence as well as being snubbed from blockbuster matched prompted his decision.
Cecchin, 48, said he had been contemplating retirement for months, but came to his final decision after a call made against the Sharks in the round 22 match against the Knights.
With 70 minutes played at the score at 14-all, Cecchin penalised Sharks defenders for carrying Knights centre Bradman Best from the field into the in-goal after he called “held”.
Sharks coach Josh Hannay criticised the decision. Cecchin and his partner, Brent, were staying at the same hotel as the Sharks.
“I didn’t leave my hotel room because I was scared,” Cecchin told the Herald.
“Not because I felt threatened, but I wanted to prevent any incident that could make it a drama. Nobody gave me that feeling, but I didn’t want someone to make a comment in a lift or the foyer.
“I know it was a 50-50 call. The thing is three years ago I wouldn’t have lost a minute of sleep. But that night was shocking.
“I didn’t sleep that night or the night after. I felt more responsible than I should’ve been. When you’re younger, you look for the big decisions to show everyone you can do it. I’m running around now thinking I just want to get through it.”
Cecchin came back after retiring from the NRL three seasons ago after he received death threats following the World Cup semi-final between Tonga and England in New Zealand.
The Herald said this weekend’s fixture is likely to be Cecchin’s last unless a more preferred referee suffers an injury or makes a decision worthy of them being sacked.
“When you feel like you’re just making up the numbers, week after week, it gets tricky,” he said. “It’s hard to stay up when you don’t have the carrot of the big games like you once did.
“For the last year and a half, I’ve been trying to hold on to my reputation with the players and coaches. It wasn’t to be in the grand final or State of Origin, as it has been in the past. It’s important for me to be remembered by players and coaches as I am now.”