NRL ref opens up on death threats and police escorts
AHEAD of refereeing his 300th NRL game, veteran whistleblower Matt Cecchin has opened up on the abuse he and his family have suffered,
Cecchin, set to hit the milestone as Penrith meets Canberra on Sunday, has told Fairfax in an exclusive interview about the scale of death threats he faced after making a late-game call in last year's World Cup semi-final between England and Tonga to disallow a try.
The call was later deemed to be correct.
"We've picked up hundreds and hundreds of messages and they are death threats," Cecchin said he was told by New Zealand police post-match, as he and his family were rushed out of the country.
The 44-year-old then revealed he was picked up by Australian Federal Police at the airport and his home was kept under watch.
"It was really, really serious. I don't like attention as a referee," he said.
"I want to do my job without any fuss and then leave. The reality is that after that game, and for the first chunk of this year with all the noise that's been out there, it's been tough. Really, really tough."
Cecchin also revealed that he is retiring from refereeing at the end of the season due to the brutality of criticism that referees have received. He has been speaking to a sports therapist twice daily to deal with it.
He said if an opportunity arose to referee in the Super League in the UK he might consider it, but effectively, he's "done".
Cecchin, who had previously spoken about his battle with mental health, said he made the decision to walk away from the game after Origin I, saying he needed a "long break".
"It's gone too far," Cecchin said.
"How much better could we be if the environment was a little bit more positive? If a ref could go out there knowing he's got to work hard but if he makes a bad call it won't be the end of the world?"
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