NRL calls for halt to referee dissent

Sharks forward Andrew Fifita protests a call with referee Henry Perenara.
Sharks forward Andrew Fifita protests a call with referee Henry Perenara. Photo credit: Getty

The NRL has implored players to rein in dissent towards referees, warning that if they don't, officials will take matters into their own hands.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley said he was concerned by a worrying trend, where players would attempt to argue decisions and engage in running battles with the on-field officials.

During Penrith's round 19 loss to Canberra, Panthers skipper James Maloney had to be cautioned by referee Ashley Klein about questioning every decision and was warned he risked being sin-binned.

Annesley said, while players were allowed to ask why a penalty was given, they didn't have a license to continuously debate.

He said he didn't want referees to march sides 10 metres or use the sin-bin, but if clubs didn't self-regulate, they would have no other option.

"I think it's best if we put a stop to it now, because I don't want the referees to have to act on it," Annesley said. "I'd prefer if we take a more reasonable approach.

"I'm not saying players can't do what they've always done, which is ask the referee about decisions or engage with the referee in the right manner.

"If we can get the message through today, it'll be business as usual."

Meanwhile, Annesley said he had no issue with two crucial calls that denied North Queensland tries in their 28-4 loss to Wests Tigers on Thursday.

Cowboys coach Paul Green said he disagreed with a forward-pass call on Michael Morgan that denied Kyle Feldt, as well as an obstruction penalty against Shane Wright for taking out Luke Brooks.

Annesley said the Morgan forward pass was a 50-50 call.

Back-rower Wright ran into Brooks in the defensive line, which caused his outside men to change their defensive decisions and allowed the Cowboys to score.

"These are matters that are open to interpretation," Annesley said. "I'm happy for Paul to have a different view. 

"But our view, based on the interpretations that the referees have to act under and the discussions we had with coaches at the start of the year is that these two incidents had enough doubt over them that you would at least not say they were wrong."