NRL: Melbourne Storm half Jahrome Hughes suspended for pushing referee during win over NZ Warriors

Melbourne Storm half Jahrome Hughes has copped a one-week suspension for shoving referee Chris Butler during the dramatic 30-26 victory over NZ Warriors.

The incident occurred midway through the second half at Melbourne's AAMI Park, as Warriors centre Rocco Berry recovered a loose ball and steamed towards the tryline.

Impeded by the ref, Hughes pushed Butler to the ground to make the tackle, but on the next play, the Warriors shifted left for winger Marcelo Montoya to score in the corner.

Jahrome Hughes in action against the Warriors.
Jahrome Hughes in action against the Warriors. Photo credit: Getty Images

He was subsequently cited for the act and has decided not to contest the charge, accepting the automatic one-week ban that goes with it. 

"Melbourne Storm and Jahrome Hughes have reluctantly accepted the early plea and grading for his contrary conduct charge from Saturday night," said the club. :Whilst both Jahrome and the club fully support and totally endorse the protection of referees in our game, we believe Saturday’s incident was an accident.

"Further, we believe the contact was unavoidable and the grading on the incident was too harsh, given the circumstances where Jahrome was concentrating on making an important tackle in the context of the game and not fixated on the movements of the referee.

"Jahrome has reached out to referee Chris Butler to apologise and reinforce that his actions were unintentional."

Fox Sport commentator Mick Ennis describes the charge as "absolutely ridiculous", insisting Hughes meant no ill harm to the official.

"Commonsense says it’s not one of those moments where a player is frustrated and puts his hand on the referee," he insisted. "That's what we don't want in our game, we don't want referees ever to be touched when they don’t need to be, but that was just a complete accident from Jahrome Hughes.

"Commonsense has to prevail. I hope they fight that, because he should never miss a week for it and the fact he was charged is just absolute stupidity."

NRL head of elite competitions Graham Annesley insists Hughes' punishment is completely justified.

"In our game, for as long as it's been played, it's never been acceptable to push a referee," he said. "It's never been acceptable to push a referee out of the way, regardless of the circumstances.

"We have to ensure match officials are protected. No-one is suggesting for a second there was anything malicious in what took place, but whether it's to make a tackle or save a try - whatever it is - you can't take a decision to move the referee out of the way."

Adding fuel to the debate, the NRL bunker disallowed a try to Canterbury Bulldogs forward Viliame Kikau, after a Cronulla Sharks defender was impeded by the referee.

"I don't believe this try should have been overturned," said Annesley in his weekly analysis. "The referee has to be somewhere on the field, he can't just disappear.

"If we allow that try to be disallowed on that basis, we'll have players making contact with referees in multiple instances where they'll claim they've been disadvantage.

"Players and referees bump into each other a lot, because it's a fast-paced game and it happens on a reasonably regular basis. It's the type of contact and the circumstances it takes place."