Referee Gerard Sutton’s performance in Origin III has been widely criticised. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Referee Gerard Sutton’s performance in Origin III has been widely criticised. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Referees boss opens up on Origin penalty count

NRL head of football Graham Annesley has staunchly defended the performance of the under fire State of Origin referees, and was adamant no half-time directive was given to tell them to stop blowing penalties.

Annesley also claimed the controversial first-half penalty crackdown actually saved the match from descending into an "arm wrestle".

In a stunning about-face, 12 penalties were blown in the first half but only two more arrived in the entire 40 minutes of the second half.


Despite widespread criticism, Annesley believes referees Ashley Klein and Gerard Sutton actually deserve "some credit to be honest for achieving what we saw in the second half which was a great game of football and a great end to the series".

After the penalties stopped in the second half, Channel 9 commentator Paul Vautin argued "they might have got a little tap on the shoulder".

Phil Gould was also scathing throughout the match.

"If the referees stay out of it, the players will decide it," Gould said.

But Annesley was adamant no half-time instructions were given.

"I have checked with (referees' boss) Bernard Sutton this morning and basically there was no direction whatsoever," Annesley said.

"I mean, there was a discussion at half-time about 'you have done all the hard work to try and establish some standards in the first half'.

"And they felt they were starting to see some results of that late in the first half.

"It was the belief that what they had done to get compliance in the first half that allowed the second half to open up.

"There was no instruction to say 'we are going to have less penalties'.

Sutton makes his point in the first half.
Sutton makes his point in the first half.

"In the context of the game, you have an Origin decider where both teams were absolutely determined to assert their dominance early in the game, so they were pushing things to the limit.

"And I know there was a lot of penalties in the first half, but had they not acted in the first half you would have seen an arm wrestle for 80 minutes."

With the focus now back on the NRL regular season, Annesley is confident the refs can put the recent criticism behind them on the run to the finals.

He said there was no guarantees there would be no more controversies but he maintained overall the refs have had a pretty good year.

"All I can say is that I thought for the first half of the year things were pretty acceptable," he said.

"We have issues every week but I thought we weren't having major issues.

"The last two weeks there has been a fair amount of criticism and some of it warranted.

"I hope that now that the Origin series is over and we are back into the regular week-to-week of the NRL competition heading towards the finals we will have a much smoother run.

"But we have to wait to see what unfolds."