Water Cooler: Refs treating captains with respect?

It might well have been written off as just another losing side having a whinge, but has Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith opened a new can of worms?<br><br>Smith was furious in the wake of his side’s 20-16 loss to the Gold Coast, claiming referees Jared Maxwell and Ben Cummins refused to explain their reasons for awarding two controversial penalties against his side as the Titans stormed home to claim a dramatic late win.<br><br>Truth be told, there were a range of issues that had Smith seeing red.<br><br>By far the most contentious was a penalty awarded against him for time-wasting as he allowed the 40-second time limit to elapse while waiting to take a line drop-out. Gold Coast five-eighth Greg Bird scored from the ensuing set to level the scores at 16-all.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240&amp;roundID=841&amp;fixtureID=50020100502" target="_blank">Watch the time-wasting penalty now.</a></b><br><br>But Smith was particularly incensed that the referees refused to acknowledge his questions after the Titans were awarded a rare scrum penalty a few minutes later.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=841&amp;fixtureid=50020100502&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=penaltyconceded&amp;period=2&amp;time=1871" target="_blank">Watch the rare 'differential' scrum penalty now.</a></b><br><br>While Titans coach John Cartwright was quick to brush aside the controversy after the game, former Sydney Roosters captain and coach Brad Fittler told NRL.com this morning that the issue was far more than a storm in a teacup.<br><br>Fittler has offered his services to referees boss Robert Finch this season and met with the full-time refereeing squad at the start of the year but says there are a number of issues that still need to be resolved.<br><br>“It’s a concern that Cameron didn’t have an idea of what the penalties were for,” Fittler said.<br><br>“That’s saying something – that we’re getting very nit-picky with the penalties that are being awarded. With Cameron’s experience, it’s huge for the game when players don’t have any idea what a penalty is for.”<br><br>Fittler said he was particularly concerned by the introduction of key indicators upon which referees now base many of their decisions.<br><br>“They’re starting to change the rules of what we know footy to be about and I don’t think that’s extremely healthy,” he said.<br><br>“It’s a real problem that we’re getting to a stage where we don’t know what the penalties are for.<br><br>“I’ve heard from members of the public that have said they’re a bit confused sometimes. <br><br>“We need to make sure we don’t go down the same path as rugby union and over-scrutinise everything in the game.”<br><br>However, Smith’s comments last Friday night have also raised questions over the relationship between players and referees with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy offering a glimpse into the frustration of players when he commented that he hadn’t previously realized just how big an issue it was.<br><br>“Listening to Cameron, it’s a bigger issue than I thought,” Bellamy said.<br><br>“At the end of the day, if the captain is not sure what the penalty is for he deserves an explanation.”<br><br>The argument against Bellamy’s assertion is that captains had started questioning referees purely as a time-wasting exercise in order to give their players more breathing space when under the pump.<br><br>In-fact, it’s the sort of tactic that led to the introduction of 40-second time limits in the first place.<br><br>But there is a fine line and many in the NRL believe referees no longer give captains the respect they deserve.<br><br>Former Warriors captain Steve Price said referees were now contradicting themselves by deciding when there should be a break in play.<br><br>“I’m not captain anymore but I was certainly finding it pretty difficult to communicate with referees by the end of last year,” Price said.<br><br>“Now we’ve got a scenario where referees will delay play to call out the captain for a chat when all they are doing is disadvantaging the side that received the penalty.<br><br>“Captains get pushed away from referees and told they won’t speak to them unless there is a stoppage in play – well why can’t the referees do the same thing?<br><br>“They’re shooing captains away as if they’re a menace.<br><br>“We get told we’re not showing respect to the referees but in a way they’re not showing mutual respect to the players.<br><br>“The captain represents all of his players on the field so if he has got a legitimate question to ask he should be able to.”<br><br>Price said he understood that referees resented obvious time-wasting but insisted it was now rare for captains to use that as their motivation.<br><br>“We’ve come a long way from those days,” he said.<br><br>“The problem now is that referees won’t even look at you and basically treat you like a schoolboy.<br><br>“From what I’ve seen that is an area of the game that has eroded.”