Kearney labels inconsistent refereeing 'a blight on our game'
Stephen Kearney has taken the ball from Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and run with it, labelling inconsistent refereeing as a "blight on our game", which he partly blames for the Warriors' 12-6 loss to Melbourne on Sunday.
The frustrated Warriors coach talked of key "moments" that cost his side and didn’t need a second invitation when quizzed on several calls by referees Ben Cummins and Jon Stone at Mt Smart Stadium.
There was no more contentious moment than when winger Ken Maumalo had a bullocking run halted by what appeared to be a swinging arm from Storm captain Cameron Smith, who then interrupted the ensuing play-the-ball, only for the ref to rule a knock-on.
"When we talk about moments for us as a footy team, and like I said we weren’t good enough tonight, but there were some moments that the officials didn’t get quite right tonight either and … Ken’s one was a pretty obvious one," he said.
"When we get penalised for leaving our line too early a couple of minutes before the end of the game and [then] we head up and we’re on their try line and by the time we catch the ball, they’re in our face. I’m not making these comments without any vision, I’ve watched it.
"As Ricky would have eluded to the other day, they’re game-changers, they turn the momentum of the game."
Like Kearney, Stuart calmly vented his frustration following the controversial awarding of a try to Sharks winger Sione Katoa in Cronulla’s 28-24 win over the Raiders on Friday night.
Asked if he believed the NRL had a genuine problem with officiating, Kearney wasn’t shy in coming forward – with a caveat.
"It’s important we don’t sit here and gloss over the fact we weren’t good enough but they’re under a bit of pressure, the officials, at the moment," he said.
"We got an email at the start of the week [saying] they [the referees] were going to look at the crowding of the play-the-ball and it’s taking too long for guys to get off tackles and I’m watching tonight and thinking, I dunno if they sent themselves that email to themselves?
"They probably needed to read the email they sent out to everyone else because I thought they [the Storm] were slow peeling off today and that’s what we get confused about as footy clubs. They’re sending out directives and it’s not really [getting through]."
Pressed further on a where the problem lay, Kearney said: “Unfortunately I think they’re being poorly led and I don’t mean that by the referees' boss. When they get a directive at the start of the year, you know, blow the pea out of the whistle, and then 13 rounds into the competition it changes again, again, it’s just about that consistency.
"I do feel for them at the minute but there’s enough smart people in our game at the minute to get it sorted so we need to make sure we do something about it. I think it’s a bit of a blight on our game. Hopefully, we can resolve it."
Kearney was left to bemoan some poor decision making at key times and a couple of botched tries as the Warriors fell to their fifth home loss in nine matches and to the bottom of the eight behind Brisbane on points differential.
The first missed try, when Mason Lino - a late replacement for five-eighth Blake Green (ribs) - failed to collect a pass from Maumalo, with the tryline begging, proved a crucial blow as Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu retorted in the very next set with a try that gave the visitors a 8-6 lead just before halftime that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Warriors centre Solomone Kata then had an early second-half try ruled out for a double movement.
"It’s a double movement, you can’t rewind it. Then again that’s probably one of those moments potentially he probably could have slid over from that close out. That’s a learning for us and Sol wasn’t the only one, there were a couple of other opportunities there that we didn’t quite get right and ultimately you look at the scoreline and that’s what it comes down to.
"I thought some real courageous effort and energy out there but it was probably one of those games that you’d classify as a missed opportunity."
The Warriors don’t return to home turf until Newcastle visit on August 10 and that’s probably a good thing given their home-and-away form. Now just four points clear of ninth-placed Wests Tigers, the next fortnight away to the Titans next Sunday and the St George Illawarra Dragons (August 4) will be crucial if they are to take momentum into September or indeed make it that far at all.