FROM all accounts, referees Shayne Hayne and Matt Cecchin and their touch judges Steve Carrall and Nick Beashall were the subject of intense and sustained abuse as the left AAMI Park at halftime in Monday’s Melbourne Manly game.
One witness I spoke to was completely taken aback by the aggression of the crowd members around the tunnel.
But the match officials are entitled to feel better over the couple of days since because, to the greatest degree than I can ever recall, members of the public have jumped to their defence.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey has, instead, copped it on social media for speaking out against their performances and saying the 10 10 draw was not a fair result.
It’s a strange state of affairs which may just indicate the pantomime villain status Manly holds with many league fans.
But it strikes me as odd that rugby league supporters want coaches gagged and the NRL to step up punishments for “bringing the game into disrepute”. I can only assume these supporters would still be of that opinion if their own team seemed hard done by and their coach expressed the thoughts they shared themselves.
In which case, when you don’t want opinions similar to your own aired …. WTF?
During my career, I have covered periods of the game where sports editors have banned leading match reports on the criticism of referees because it had just become too repetitive.
At these times, I have thought this an unfair impediment to the freedom of speech but really, this is the only fair sanction against coaches who cry wolf too often. That is, that their comments are no longer reported because they are genuinely unnewsworthy.
We’re not quite at that point yet this season. Maybe we’re getting close.
I can understand the NRL wanting to keep the game out of the courts by policing libellous comments but aside from that, to try to gag anyone from public comment is to travel down a dangerous path. Rugby league was born out of rebellion and Australia is an anti establishment culture.
Having a bit of a whinge is consistent with all that and I have spoken to referees who appreciate it as part of the theatre of the NRL.
I was at Monday’s game, of course, and I didn’t regard Toovey’s comments as having been over the top. He even smiled and joked in between making that aside about seeing things from fifty metres away on Triple M.
It’s also fair to say both coaches had reason to complain in a tough game. Melbourne may have won the penalty count but the goal that edged Manly ahead for a ball steal against George Rose was doubtful.
There were calls on charge downs, hands on the ball and time outs which were contentious. The referees stood together in the defensive line at times. Defences seemed offside at others.
Tight game, big calls and a lot at stake. You might say that it spoiled your breakfast the next day to read about the comments after such a great contest. Sorry about that.
As I said, complaining about refs will soon become unewsworthy. Maybe it should lose its news value with some coaches before others.
But let’s not make it the crime of the century.
WHEN I asked on Twitter what people wanted to read about in this column, there were many helpful suggestions.
One, from former NRL star John Cross, was: “how about why if you have nothing to hide wouldn’t you want to help insure the sport you play was clean and drug free ??”
To the people who wanted to read about “monorails” and “marbles” … maybe next week.
COMMENTS time and since I seem to be doing more and more for Fairfax Media, I’ve decided to go through everything you’ve said at the bottom of any story since the last week’s Discord.