Former Parramatta Eels great Nathan Hindmarsh says the time has come for rugby league to stop the blame-game on referees.
Hindmarsh, a one-club legend who added 23 Tests and 17 State of Origin matches to the 330 games be played for the Eels, said everyone needs to remember that referees aren't the only people involved in the game who make mistakes.
"I've been involved in rugby league for most of my life and I've seen fans and the media criticise officials, but it’s gotten to the point where people are forever attacking referees – and it’s got to stop," Hindmarsh told this week's Big League magazine.
"These guys are out there doing the best they can. Yes, they're supposed to not make mistakes, but they're human. Players drop the ball from time to time, so refs should be allowed to get one wrong every now and then."
The process that sees referees warning players over repeated infringements is one Hindmarsh doesn't see as a necessary part of the game.
He said players need to accept rulings made against them and get on with the contest.
"People have raised the issue of referees warning players about repeated infringements, but I don't believe they need to because if you're doing the wrong thing, a penalty should be self explanatory. I don't see why refs should be warning players, because it's either a penalty or it's not – there are no grey areas if someone is offside or if it's a high tackle,’’ he said.
"As a player, I always believed that if a penalty was blown, that was it. There was no point arguing about it, because you can't change the referee's mind. The onus was on me to make sure it didn’t happen again."
The increased number of sin-binnings over the opening rounds of the 2018 Telstra Premiership reminded Hindmarsh of a match he was involved in. Bill Harrigan, who was the referee in that match against the Knights, made it clear he wasn’t going to stand for repeated infringements.
"I remember a game against Newcastle back in 2002. We were giving away a stack of penalties for laying down in the ruck, so Bill Harrigan eventually had enough and sent a few of us to the bin. He made his point – it took a while for us to realise he had because there were three of us in the bin at the same time – but we couldn't complain because we were in the wrong."