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Weak people have driven Cecchin out of NRL: Stuart

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said he sympathises with the mental battles of Matt Cecchin after the leading referee announced he will retire from rugby league at the end of the year.

Cecchin has told Fairfax Media he has been inundated with abuse this season including death threats after the semi-final between England and Tonga in last year's World Cup.

Stuart slammed those he believes have essentially driven Cecchin out of the game as "weak people."

The bombshell comes as Cecchin becomes just the seventh referee to officiate in at least 300 games when he takes the whistle on Sunday for the Raiders clash with the Panthers.

It will be one of the last games at the top for an official considered one of the best in the Telstra Premiership, a fact Stuart said that in some ways, it is a "sad" indictment of the society today.

"It's sad to see because I believe 'Cecc' is one of the top referees in the competition and to lose him, we're losing a lot of experience and ability and it's sad for the game because we can't afford that," Stuart said.

"I do sympathise with him and I 150 per cent understand what he's saying about being over the game and it's sad.

"He's been courageous in terms of saying it how it is and it's probably what gets us in trouble sometimes.

Panthers v Raiders - Round 21

"It's gotten me into trouble telling how it is, but Matt's come out and I think people out there have to sit down and really think about what he's saying.

"The stress and the mental issues he's had with it is a very serious, damaging consequence."

Stuart himself has been known for critical of referees and their decisions over the years calling for match officials to be more accountable for their decisions.

However, Stuart said he has tried to soften his stance against the match officials in recent years especially given the changing guidelines that dictate how they are to call the game.

"People don't understand the behinds the scenes communications I have with the referees' bosses and the referees," he said.

"I think I have constantly said for the past two or three years 'I feel sorry for our referees'. Because they have been at times given a job that is I believe nearly impossible to get right.

"There's going to be one or two or three big mistakes in every game of football, but then players' and coaches' livelihoods are on the line and people are very reactive in regard to their emotions after a game."

Cecchin's open and honest account of the impact of calls made during a game and how it has affected the rest of his life has resonated with many across the rugby league landscape.

Stuart does not believe it will lead to a fundamental change as to how fans interact with those who are expected to be perfect when the spotlight is at its brightest.

"You've got to understand from a coach's point of view to a referee's point of view to a player's point of view, the abuse they receive, some can handle it, and some don't," Stuart said. Players' Poll - Part 1

"The mental problem we're talking about today is real and it's something with so much scrutiny nowadays on people, some handle it differently.

"There's not a referee who wants to go out there and make an error, there's not a player who wants to drop a ball, there's not a coach who wants to lose.

"And unfortunately, all of our positions are very high profile and they're going to come under abuse.

"Criticism is one [thing], abuse is another and they're very weak people who want to abuse people who are in charge of their positions.

"They're weak individuals, you'll never see them because that's why they're weak people."


Readers seeking support and information about mental health can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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