As an accredited referee and lover of the game of rugby league, I can honestly say that there have been some positive moves in the referee ranks in 2019.
In saying that, there are still some huge areas of concern.
In my first article for NRL News, I’m going to breakdown the referees who should be close to that finals appointment and those that should consider themselves blessed that there are people within the referee ranks that won’t make some of the tough decisions.
What makes a good referee?
In my opinion, a good referee is someone who has a feel for the game. Rugby league has a unique feel when you are on the field controlling 34 testosterone filled footy players.
Within the game, there are non discretionary rules – rulings that need to be made and are not a judgement call from the referee.
Forward Passes, catching the ball in an offside position.
Then there are rules that are more discretionary.
Holding down in play the ball etc; where a referee has sole discretion to allow the play to flow, or to blow a penalty.
And there are times where it is fine to let something slide for the sake of the game and the situation of the game.
As a referee, I always liked to stamp an authority early.
Tell the captains at the toss what you are really looking for, and pinging the first couple so they know you mean business.
Usually you want to blow an offside penalty, a holding down, a hand on the ball, something around the ruck. If the ruck is clean, the game is a better spectacle.
Once you’ve blown a few early penalties, you start to get a feel for the game, then the penalties disappear unless absolutely required.
In saying that, there are a couple of really good referees in this years crop.
For whatever reason, they seem to get overlooked for most of the big games, but their time will come.
Referees to look out for
Grant Atkins – Currently my favourite of the crop. Will make mistakes, but we are all human.
He backs his judgement and I’d rather a game that flows with a few minor issues, than a stop start affair with a bunker howler thrown in.
Grant points to the spot when he is confident and referees with that James Maloney forgetfulness that Gus Gould praises.
He doesn’t get stuck on certain teams or penalty streaks, he referees what is in front of him.
Jon Stone – One of the new brigade. Doesn’t quite have the calm of Atkins but knows his rules, has grown a lot this year and deserves to step out of the pocket referee role more often.
Gavin Badger – Now, before you shoot me down, I know that Gavin is polarising. But he is important for the game.
He has personality, he backs his judgement and lets the game flow.
His communication with players in my opinion is the best in the league, he gets respect and treats the players with the respect he gets in return.
Not afraid to make a decision on his own.
Those who should not be in the frame
Henry Perenara – Now, before I start on Henry, I did my referee’s course with Henry and from day one, he came across as someone who he considered was superior to us mortals in the room, and he now referees like it.
The same day, Colin Best was on the same course. Now, I don’t know what happened, but Colin would have made a much better referee. =
And Luke Phillips who was the best of the 3 but due to issues with Tony Archer, quit the ranks.
I always imagined that former players would make great referees as they have that “feel” for the game. Henry blows that theory out of the water.
His refereeing is clunky, games don’t flow.
Penalties to teams who are gaining the ascendancy then stunt that team who deserve the advantage of a few “play on” calls without calling every penalty.
Ben Cummins – Ben has my utmost respect and 3 or 4 years ago, I considered him the best referee in the game.
His good games still appear but consistency is an issue. Ben also referees better alone.
In internationals, he is great. Pocket referees have seen the demise of Ben’s refereeing.
Anyone by the surname Sutton – Referees have never seen a boys club like the one we had with Tony Archer in charge and the one Bernard Sutton now oversees.
Good referees are not getting a shot because of it and State of Origin 3 was nearly ruined as a spectacle because of it.
I look forward to seeing which whistle blowers step up in the next 5 weeks.
Good luck to your team, may the best team win and the referees be the least of our worries.
Follow me and interact with me on Twitter @TheRulebook101