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NRL: Do match officials have it too easy?

Paul McGregor and Paul Green have been issued $10,000 breach notices for making comments about match officials. Are referees a protected species in the NRL?


Dragons coach Paul McGregor and Cowboys chief Paul Green have both been issued breach notices after making comments about match officials. They’re likely to be $10,000 out of pocket due to speaking their minds a little too freely after some questionable decisions.

McGregor called the referees ‘embarrassing and incompetent’ while Green was even more direct.

“It’s just a shame the refs ruined (the game) because that was the worst bloody refereeing display I have ever seen tonight,” said Green.

A change in the rules

The rules about commenting on match officials’ performance were updated in 2015. NRL rules state that: “No Club, Club Official or Player shall, on a public occasion, comment on or with respect to the performance of a Match Official.” That’s pretty comprehensive. It protects the match officials, but is it best for the sport of rugby league?

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The match official circle is becoming increasingly closed and untouchable. Poor refereeing is creating dissatisfaction among the fans, coaches and players in the NRL yet there’s little that can be done, besides referring the matter on to other officials. Coaches are required to speak directly with referee boss Tony Archer, who is supposed to be in close communication with coaches after games.

McGregor made sure to follow official protocol afterwards.

“I emailed Arch after the game,” said McGregor. “I texted him on the phone and emailed him through a dozen clips of the game and got a response back, so we did talk.” 

A growing trend?

Two other coaches who recently came close to getting similar punishments were more frank about their chances of their views being considered. Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said:

“I came in here looking to blow up but to be truthfully honest, I don’t think that’s going to do anything anyway. They’ll just hunt me up for a fine or something.”

In July, Canberra coach Ricky Stuart used almost his entire five-minute press conference to blast referees. He is no stranger to breach notices, having racked up ten fines worth $125,000, but he avoided one this time. When asked if he would approach the NRL or Archer to complain about the Storm match, Stuart replied; “No. What for? It’s a waste of time.”

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He did voice his opinions about referee accountability in the NRL.

“Coaches have to come in here and own up to every question you blokes want to throw at us. Why don’t the NRL get the referees to come in and answer some of these questions too? Why doesn’t the NRL come out and make public some of the communications between the referees, the bunker, and the linesmen? Let’s make everyone accountable.”

It is concerning that refereeing is such a closed system, and that top level coaches and players feel so frustrated about it that they will risk hefty fines to voice their thoughts on the matter. Maybe the answer is not to verbally offload on a match official but perhaps referees should be held more accountable.

Do you think NRL match officials should be held publicly accountable? What’s your opinion on these recent breach notices? Let us know in the comments below.

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Tammy Singh

I'm a New Zealander, living in Australia, married to an Indian Fijian - and we love our sports. We'll watch almost anything except motor sports and golf. I'd love to hear what you've got to say - whether you agree, disagree or just have more to add, leave your thoughts in the comments.

NRL: Do match officials have it too easy?

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