ONE-GAME BAN: Tyson Frizell of the Dragons was suspended for a referee touch.
ONE-GAME BAN: Tyson Frizell of the Dragons was suspended for a referee touch. PAUL MILLER

Verbal referee abuse is worse than a touch

REFEREE-touching in the NRL - and now referee-touching watch - has become farcical. And so have the decisions of the Match Review Committee.

No one associated with the game wanted Jarryd Hayne charged after his mini collision with a referee last weekend. It was a purely accidental incident where, arguably, the referee was more culpable.

But the fact that three other players - Ken Maumalo, Alex Glenn and Moses Mbye - made contact with referees last weekend and no charges were referred, makes a mockery of this absurd referee-touching issue.

Justifiably, Dragons fans are ropeable.

That Tyson Frizell was banned for something just as trivial as the four incidents from round 22 smacks of a Match Review Committee that has lost its way.

How can fans have faith in Michael Buettner and his MRC cohorts, and confidence in their decisions between now and grand final day?

Charges from them are a dead-set lottery and as someone who religiously watches every game each weekend, I no longer have any inkling of whether a player will be charged.

As expressed previously, referees must be sacrosanct. But let's face it, if I bump someone in the aisle of a supermarket I won't be charged with assault.

Commonsense is not being used. Any reasonable, rational person recognises that in 90 percent of the cases this season, the player charged has not intentionally or aggressively touched the referee.

Agreed, the referee touching issue has far more reach than to adult NRL fans. It sends a message to kids that not only referees but others in positions of authority in our society must be respected.

But while the NRL takes a stand in one area, it fails by allowing players to assault referees verbally. And permitting that to continue is sending a far worse message to the next generation of players.

People joke about serial protester James Graham now clasping his hands behind his back when he accosts a referee. But his intention is still to intimidate.

And other high-profile captains are also guilty, including the most experienced trio of Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Corey Parker. If a contentious decision goes against them, they are in the face of the referee, and more often than not it is in a confrontational manner.

That is where the NRL, and the referees, need to take a stand. There should be zero tolerance and harsh on-field penalties.

I watch a little Super 15 rugby or AFL and I have never detected player backchat in either code.

But with a penalty goal worth three points in rugby and AFL players marched 50 metres for dissent, discipline in that area of their games is logical.

It is time the NRL took a similar stance to abuse of referees - the verbal kind.