Referee Ashley Klein sends James Maloney of the Sharks to the sin bin during the NRL elimination final against the Cowboys.
Referee Ashley Klein sends James Maloney of the Sharks to the sin bin during the NRL elimination final against the Cowboys. CRAIG GOLDING

Ranting players as bad as whingeing coaches

AS the game's top administrator appeals to the rugby league community to "grow up", whingeing, whining coaches are not the only referee-related issue the NRL faces.

Players charging towards referees and gesticulating at touch judges in an effort to pressure match officials into reviewing decisions - a la soccer - has become a disgraceful look for the game and is getting out of control.

Yep, there were some poor refereeing decisions in the first weekend of the finals. And certainly the grouchy coaches had reasons to be upset.

But, hand on heart, does anyone seriously believe any of the four beaten teams actually deserved to win? Did any of the moaning coaches honestly think the footy public in general would cry with them?

Coaches in the NRL are paid big money - much, much more than referees. Yet each week, the losing coach will more often than not have a crack at the match officials.

And there is no better example than Shane Flanagan last Sunday. Here was the coach of the defending premiers, with a full-strength side, heading into the post-match press conference with a prepared list of complaints against the match officials when his team had just been beaten by the bruised, battered and hugely under-strength Cowboys.

But not once did Flanagan mention his team's 37 missed tackles, the 11 penalties conceded or the 17 handling errors. And not once did he mention the boofheaded final play by his No.1 prop, Andrew Fifita.


Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks NRL coach Shane Flanagan answers a question during a press conference in Sydney on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. The Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sutherland Sharks will play each other in the NRL Grand Final on Sunday, October 2nd (AAP Image/Paul Miller) NO ARCHIVING
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan during a press conference. PAUL MILLER

And rather than rebuke perennial offender James Maloney for being sin binned, Flanagan opted to defend his five-eighth, who this season has conceded 36 penalties. Maloney also missed seven tackles against the Cowboys - another stat Flanagan failed to declare.

But while this selective blindness of self-obsessed coaches has become a cancer on the game, the total disrespect for officials from players is now rampant. And unless it is nipped in the bud immediately rugby league at all levels will suffer massive consequences.

Rarely do I watch rugby union but what stands out like a beacon is the respect given to rugby referees by all players - to the point where the man with the whistle is sacrosanct. Despite a consensus that referees in that code nitpick, never have I witnessed a player even look sideways at an official, let alone aggressively query a decision.

Following the negative fallout from the first week of the NRL finals - and that includes poor crowds and below-expected TV ratings - influential figures in our game must come together. It is fine to have strong opinions but there is a time and a place for them to be aired.

Club bosses, coaches and prominent players - those same players who keep telling us they want to be partners in the game - need to agree to a cessation of the angst that is being levelled at match officials. And they must settle this the upcoming off-season.

James Maloney might believe that all except the players are accessories in the game of rugby league, but without referees there simply is no game at all. At any level.