By STEVE MASCORD
RUGBY league’s international federation has refused to sanction dual referees for this week’s Australia-New Zealand Test – but possibly the first husband-and-wife officiating team in the history of world sport will control an international eight days later.
The Sydney Morning Herald has learned NRL official Gavin Badger and his wife Kasey have been appointed to the Thailand v Philippines match at Bangkok’s Royal Thai Police Stadium on Sunday, October 21.
Gavin Badger went to school with the coach and founder of the Thai Rugby League, Andrew Charles. Unless the RLIF intervenes, they will control the entire 80 minutes together – a domestic NRL set-up which was vetoed for Saturday’s more high-profile match at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
“Aside from going to school with Gavin, I know Kasey from when I was coaching in Harold Mathews and SG Ball,” said Charles.
“Gavin has help me out in the past and I invited him to come and do the game. He agreed – and then asked if Kasey could also do it. We approved it.
“It will be two referees, just like the NRL. I’ve got one touch judge from Canberra and one from Souths. It’s great that they could come – the Badgers are arriving on the 18th and staying until the 25th so they’re making a holiday of it.”
The Badgers met when refereeing and this year Kasey made the step up to controlling the Under 20s Toyota Cup. Kasey Badger said last night:
“I think if he does something I think is wrong, he’ll be able to tell just by the way I glare at him,” Badger said.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to referee under the two-ref system for the first time. I’ve got hold of the eagle cams and had a look at some of the refs who do it really well.
“People have always wondered when we would referee together. Well, now it’s going to happen. I had no hesitation in saying yes.
“Because it’s not a Test match, it’s just an international, my understanding is that it’s OK to have two refs. It’s up to the countries to appoint the refs – as long as they both agree.”
The Philippines side on Sunday week will include NRL stars Andrew Everingham, Matt Srama and Kevin Gordon while Thailand will boast some lower grade talent from Australia as well as local rugby union players.
It’s the first serious international for both teams – and Charles reckons it’s the first ever held in Asia.
The ARL Commission had applied to the RLIF for two referees this weekend, on the basis that all players were from the NRL. The request was denied, with the Federation believing it was important for all internationals to be played under the same rules.
Some observers – such as Australian back-rower Paul Gallen – have been calling for a return to a single-refereeing system as the solution to a poor year for match officials in the NRL.
But Australia prop David Shillington says: “It might make the game go a bit slower.
“It also might create a bit of leeway for a few sneaky things going on around the ruck, too.”
Asked which side had more “sneaky” players, Shillington said: “It’s hard to say – we’ve got a couple of Melbourne boys. So do they, I guess.
“These days, (referees) have so much to police.
“It’s not just the defensive team they’re watching in the ruck. They’re also watching the attacking team grabbing legs as they’re getting up, tripping over the marker, trying to hold them down and get a penalty and stuff like that.
“There’s a lot of people who have been calling for one (referee) for a while. They reckon the game’s over analysed, too many penalties. I guess we’ll know after this game. It’s good to trial it.”
Fellow green-and-gold front rower Matt Scott did not expect there to be major differences.
“I don’t find it too different,” said North Queensland’s Scott. “I can’t say whether it’s better or worse. My job doesn’t change.”
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD