NRL coaches have held crisis talks with league officials late Tuesday evening following realisations that referees are beginning to enforce the laws of the game.
This latest revelation was sparked by Canterbury Bulldogs’ 19-18 win over South Sydney on Good Friday, when referee Gerard Sutton awarded the winning penalty, to the surprise of Souths captain Greg Inglis.
“We were surprised he [Sutton] gave the penalty. I know the rule says that a penalty should’ve been awarded but these days, you genuinely expect the ref to call play-on,” Inglis told FMF.
With recent opinion polls showing the popularity of officials stands at a paltry ten percent, decisions like Friday’s will do nothing to endear referees to fans who are conditioned to expect them to be wrong.
The NRL is reportedly looking to take immediate action against this, with the number of officials on the field set to triple from this round onwards in order to increase the level of confusion and contradiction amongst referees, so errors rise back to expected levels.
“Blaming officials has always been a part of sport, for clubs, fans and the administration,” said NRL CEO David Smith. “If we take that away by continuing to allow referees to suck the controversy out of matches, fans may begin finding fault in other things like scheduling, the quality of TV broadcasts, and the continued presence of Ray Hadley in the commentary box.”
Sutton for his role in the fiasco has been dropped to park football, where the natural mob justice of an Under 12s match in Sydney’s far west is seen as a suitable deterrent to unwanted behaviour.