NRL says ref criticism ’over the top'
NRL head of football Graham Annesley says criticism of his whistleblowers has become excessive, despite admitting the Wests Tigers were cruelled by an incorrect call in their loss to Parramatta.
Annesley said the referees had been unfairly tarnished after a weekend of controversial decisions and a high penalty count in State of Origin III.
He said the referees had largely made the correct calls during round 17, except for one in the Eels' 30-18 win on Sunday in which Blake Ferguson brushed the sideline but went undetected.
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"Over the last few weeks I've been quite critical of the performance of match officials," Annesley said.
"I think that criticism has been justified. But I do think over the last five days it has been over the top."
The referees were widely pilloried after blowing 12 penalties during the first half in NSW's 20-14 win in last week's Origin decider.
However Annesley said the way in which the game opened up in the second half was due to the way Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein tightly policed the ruck in the first 40 minutes.
The criticism flowed into the weekend due to several key contentious decisions, however Annesley said his men largely got it right.
He admitted that Klein got his words wrong when, in the bunker, he gave the green light to a try to Canterbury's Reimis Smith.
Confusion reigned for several moments when he said he supported the on-field decision of try although head referee Matt Cecchin referred it as a no try.
However Annesley said the decision was correct and it was just a case of the slip of a tongue.
He also defended a try to Manly's Cade Cust despite it appearing that teammate Moses Suli had knocked on in the lead up.
Suli bobbled the ball into his own head before flinging it back, applauding Grant Atkins' decision and for having the courage in his convictions to award it on field instead of sending it upstairs.
He did admit that his officials got it wrong when the Eels were awarded a scrum 10m out from the Tigers' goal line, as Luke Brooks was ruled to have knocked on after fielding a wild pass from Ferguson.
The Eels went on to score the next play via Brad Takairangi. Annesley said Ferguson's boot momentarily grazed the white strip before lifting in the air, and while the call was wrong, it was a split-second decision.
"His foot touches the white line before it lifts and then goes into the air as the ball gets flung back in," Annesley said.
"His boot did scrape the white line before he passed the ball back inside, and therefore it should have been a scrum feed to the Wests Tigers."
Annesley would not comment on the decision to send off Canberra's Nick Cotric for a lifting tackle given his charge is before the match review committee.
Cotric is facing three to four weeks on the sideline.