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NRL News: Top ref 'rested', Mam has 'no regrets' over Leniu saga, Wally reveals concussion battle

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23rd April, 2024
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The NRL’s match officials announcement on Tuesday lunchtime is usually cause for little fanfare, but sparked debate this week with top ref Ashley Klein not included in the showpiece Anzac Round of fixtures.

The NRL insists that he is merely having his workload managed after seven games in seven weeks, including the trip to Las Vegas, with the implication that all refs will be treated as such across the year.

Klein controlled last Thursday night’s fixture between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters, in which Trent Robinson was left fuming by a decision that was Elisa Katoa awarded a try with Nelson Asofa-Solomona, in the coach’s view, pushing from behind.

There was also a ‘disruptor’ call in Xavier Coates’ match-winning try that Robinson thought went against his side.

Klein has still been given two Bunker assignments – Thursday’s Anzac meeting of St George Illawarra and the Roosters and Friday night’s clash at Brookvale between Manly and Parramatta.

Chris Butler is also absent from this week’s round of fixtures. He was in charge of the Broncos v Raiders game last weekend, which passed without major incident from an officiating standpoint. He will be in the Bunker for the Dolphins v Knights on Sunday.

Kasey Badger, who has been given the Cowboys v Panthers game on Saturday night, was left off the list last weekend.

‘No regrets’ – Mam breaks silence on Leniu saga


Brisbane five-eighth Ezra Mam has no regrets about calling out Spencer Leniu’s racial slur in Las Vegas and says he is prepared to meet with the Sydney Roosters prop when the time is right.

Mam, a proud Torres Strait Islander, spoke for the first time on Tuesday since Leniu called him a monkey in the round-one clash. Mam made an official complaint about Leniu’s comments on the field. Leniu was subsequently suspended by the NRL judiciary for eight games.

Asked if he had any regrets about the way he handled himself, Mam said “no'”.

“I just stuck to what my beliefs are and how I was brought up as a strong cultural man,” he said.

“If there’s anything I’m proud of, it’s my culture, and that’s what I’m going to stick up for. It’s my identity and that’s the reason why I am here.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Spencer Leniu of the Roosters rusn the ball during the round one NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Spencer Leniu in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Mam rejected an earlier offer from Leniu to meet with him in Brisbane, but said he would be prepared to do so in future.


“I think when the time is right we will have a chat,” Mam said.

“I appreciate that he wanted to come up and reach out to me. I have moved on from that now and I will probably have a chat to him when I see him, or whenever it is.”

Mam received huge support from the Broncos club and his teammates after the incident, along with current Indigenous stars Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker and past greats Lote Tuqiri and Steve Renouf.

“It was definitely a huge thing for other players to come out on behalf of me and reach out to me,” he said.

“It lifted me up and lifted my spirits up. It’s good to see all the Indigenous and non-Indigenous players reach out to me. I will just play good footy now, it was a long time ago.

Broncos players Ezra Mam and Selwyn Cobbo with a group of young Indigenous kids after a Brisbane Broncos NRL training session at Suncorp Stadium on Monday. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Broncos players Ezra Mam and Selwyn Cobbo with a group of young Indigenous kids after a Broncos training session. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“It was a bit tough, but in saying that I am looking forward to being in the present. I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’ll get on with the season and start playing some good footy.”


The Broncos received a huge boost at training on Tuesday with star quartet Adam Reynolds (hamstring), Payne Haas (knee), Brendan Piakura (ankle) and Deine Mariner (back) all training strongly ahead of Saturday’s away clash with Wests Tigers.

“It’s a huge confidence boost for the whole squad,” Mam said.

“It’s always a bit of a responsibility for myself when (halfback) Reyno isn’t there. It’s a big confidence boost for myself to lead the boys around and try and put my best footy together when he isn’t there.

“It will be a good game for him to come back, and the other boys to come back as well.”

Wally making concussion plea

Wally Lewis says he’s losing the strengths that made him ‘The King’ as he continues to live with the brain injury he developed while playing rugby league.

The Queensland great used a National Press Club address to call for an $18 million government investment towards support services and education about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).


After a string of head knocks throughout his legendary playing career, Lewis revealed last year he’d been diagnosed with the condition and wants more awareness about what living with it is like.

“It’s a journey marked by the twin shadows of fear and embarrassment, a journey through the fog of dementia and the erosion of my memory,” he said on Tuesday.

“I once had the confidence in myself to succeed, lead a team to victory, captain my country, remember the strengths and weaknesses of opposition teams, organise myself each and every day and feel well and truly in control of my everyday life.

“Now, much of that confidence has been taken away from me by the effects of probable CTE dementia.” 

The Concussion and CTE Coalition want money invested in community awareness and prevention programs, with Lewis believing tackling technique particularly at the elite level must continue to be drilled.

The former Australia and Maroons captain recalled one experience when he received a concussion and lost control of his body to the point he was urinating in his pants.


“From that moment forward we used to make sure every training session was about putting the head in the right spot … I used to have a challenge for perfection in making sure it didn’t play a part in every game I played,” Lewis said.

“Technique is probably the No.1 priority, there has to be a perfection of the skills.

“They’re not just practising a simple technique that can stop the opposing players from scoring, they’re doing it for the health and wellbeing of the players.”

Lewis was joined by Collingwood premiership player Nathan Murphy, who was medically retired earlier this season after a sequence of concussions.

His last football match was the 2023 grand final, where he was subbed off in the first half after another head knock.


Murphy said grassroots education – both on technique and the effects of concussion – is needed to create a safer playing space.

Wally Lewis. (Photo by Getty Images)

“I coach a school team and there’s kids there who are suffering concussion, but they get told to miss three weeks of football, it’s very hard for them to understand,” he said.

“If they’re educated on this stuff, and they know the consequences, that’s where the impacts can come.

“(Collingwood had a training) block called the fundamentals which is all about making our technique perfect (but) growing up in school football and local football we didn’t get taught that.”

Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, aggression and depression, with some patients going on to develop motor neuron disease or Parkinson’s disease.


It is the only preventable form of dementia, with estimates that several thousand people are affected by the condition.

Annesley admits Tigers copped raw deal

NRL head of football Graham Annesley has conceded Wests Tigers were dudded when Panthers half Brad Schneider was spared the sin bin despite a professional foul which denied Justin Olam a chance to score.

Schneider ankle-tapped the centre without the ball which stopped him from being able to back up a break from winger Junior Tupou

“I’ve been pretty quiet about the refereeing but I just feel like we’re not getting the rub of the green,” Tigers coach Benji Marshall said after the 22-6 loss. “That trip, I see it as a professional foul in the act of a try-scoring opportunity.

“Justin Olam was supporting to try and score a try and he gets tripped up. How that’s not a professional foul and a sin bin? I’ll ask for clarification as that hurt us.”


The Tigers were up 6-0 at the time of the incident in the 11th minute and if they had scored twice early it could have changed the whole momentum of the match.

Annesley at his weekly media briefing admitted the match officials got it wrong.

“It should have been a sin bin, in my view. We’ve discussed it this morning with the referee coaching staff and the referees that were in the room this morning, both tripping and also that kind of interference to a support player who is not in possession,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter whether they would’ve scored a try or not. You can’t interfere deliberately with a support player, effectively bring him to the ground and prevent him from having any opportunity to play part in what may happen next, whether it’s a try or not, and escape without going to the sin bin.”

Former Blues captain Paul Gallen described the call to not banish Schneider to the sin bin as “absolutely ridiculous” on 100% Footy.


“That’s a try gone begging, I think they score from that play. He actually dived to ankle-tap him. How isn’t someone sitting in the sin-bin for that? That was a disgraceful call, I don’t know how the Bunker missed it.

“The referee should have seen it, the touch judge should have seen it.”

with AAP