NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has confirmed that some members of the officiating team involved in last Friday night’s controversial Cronulla-Canberra game will pay the price for incorrect calls and told match officials to improve their performance.
Greenberg admitted he was “really frustrated” after touch judge Ricky MacFarlane incorrectly raised his flag to indicate a knock on by Cronulla centre Jesse Ramien in the lead up to the match winning try by winger Sione Katoa.
MacFarlane’s actions prompted some Raiders defenders to stop and the decision dominated headlines on a weekend of strong interest in the Telstra Premiership, with Saturday’s Wests Tigers-South Sydney match being the third most watched game on Fox Sports game this season.
“We should be getting those decisions right, they impact games, they impact livelihoods. We have got to get better,” Greenberg said. “The competition is close, margins are close … it means every decision matters.
“You can take it as read that tomorrow’s appointments will reflect some of that disappointment. There has to be accountability, that’s across the board, including me. You can expect there will be accountability taken tomorrow.”
While MacFarlane is expected to be dropped from officiating an NRL match next weekend, it is unclear whether referees Gerard Sutton and Gavin Reynolds will suffer the same fate.
Sutton appeared to momentarily put the whistle to his mouth but allowed play to continue before asking the bunker to confirm his belief there had been a knock on. However, the decision was overturned and the try was awarded.
Reynolds later disallowed a try to Raiders fullback Brad Abbey after ruling a cut-out pass from centre Joey Leiliua had been forward, despite the touch giving it the all clear.
Canberra eventually lost 28-24, and NRL referees boss Bernard Sutton apologised to coach Ricky Stuart after the match for the incorrect decisions.
The errors have prompted calls for the introduction of a Captain’s Challenge to minimise the involvement of the bunker, while Sutton has been accused of nepotism over the appointment of his brother, Gerard, to leading matches.
However, Greenberg insisted technology was not the problem and defended Sutton.
“I hear that nepotism word, [but] what I can tell you is that on the inside probably the person hardest on his brother is the coach, and that quite often comes in high performance environments so I have got no concerns,” Greenberg told Channel Nine.
“Gerry had an unbelievable strong State of Origin series. He is one of our best referees but like players, sometimes officials are going to make errors. We have got to continue to help them improve their performance.
“If you are not in good form or you want to improve your performance you need to work hard, you have got to make sacrifices and you have got to continue to improve your performances.
“That’s the measurement I have given our [referee’s] coaches today; work harder, get better and let’s reduce the errors.”
The calls against the Raiders followed the awarding of a try to Sydney Roosters halfback Sean O’Sullivan in last week’s 20-12 defeat of Gold Coast, which Sutton later admitted had been a knock-on.
The try was awarded by the bunker but Greenberg said human error was to blame.
“Technology is now in every sport, the challenge we have is the human element running the technology,” he said. “There is no doubt we don’t want howlers in the game. What we have seen over the last couple of weeks is key decisions that were wrong and they are wrong because of human error.
“But I have heard some respected commentators say we need more technology, we need to use the bunker more. I have heard some respected commentators saying use it more for forward passes and I have heard others say use it less, so what you hear is lots of noise.
“The reality is that it falls with me and it falls with the people under my care. The reality is that we have got to work hard and we have got to make more disciplined decisions to make sure we don’t make errors.”