Flashback to best of times, worst of times for referees

The standard of refereeing is a constant bugbear for players, officials and coaches.

Every year the same old debate is tossed up about what should be fixed and who's to blame.

If you need any further evidence of this annual occurrence, these two columns penned by Immortal John Raper, which appeared in Rugby League Week in 1975, depict the fickle nature about opinions of refs.

The first was published at the start of the season when Raper, who was Cronulla coach at the time, lauded the whistleblowers over their handling of all three grades saying it was "the highest I've seen for years".

Later that season, he wrote another RLW column, but this time he was blowing up deluxe about referees instructing players before a game about what they expected from the team as well as the interpretation of the offside rule. Sounds very familiar.

Titled Ter-ref-fic!, this Johnny Raper column first appeared in Rugby League Week on March 29, 1975

View the original article from Rugby League Week

The standard of refereeing at Endeavour Field, in all grades last Sunday, was the highest I've seen for years.

Although my team lost the first grade game I have no excuses to offer and certainly would not point the bone at the referee.

I sense there has been a major upheaval in the refereeing ranks.

The appointment of former referee Cliff Brown as supremo has obviously worked wonders.

Referee Greg Hartley in action in the 1970s.
Referee Greg Hartley in action in the 1970s. ©Rugby League Week.

The referees in each grade got on with the job. I often referred to the program to see who the referee was.

If ever referees were going to grab the spotlight it was last weekend.

It was the first weekend of Rugby League colour television yet, from what I've head and seen, not one of the white brigade tried to put on a show pony's act.

We saw more football and less of the referee.

I have no excuses to offer for Cronulla's first round defeat. We were beaten by a better side, but it does mean I will be a lot tougher with the players.

I have wielded the axe this week and cannot afford to be kind.

We fell for the thimble and pea trick from Penrith's gladiator, Bill Ashurst.

What a mighty player he is!

The standard of refereeing at Endeavour Field, in all grades last Sunday, was the highest I've seen for years.

John Raper

His double dummy fooled my boys every time. He was in full control and I reckon he appreciated the atmosphere of the Endeavour Field which is very similar to that of an old English ground.

I had heard rumours that there was off the field trouble at Penrith.

Well, there was no sign of it on the field.

Captain Mike Stephenson got the full support from his team and he set a very high standard.

His combination with Ashurst left us floundering. Stephenson is a magnificent captain and he played us off a break.

And what about the Panthers' young prop, Glen Stolzenhein.

Oh boy, didn't he give us some curry! He has an outstanding future.

It's been a long time since I've seen a prop step off his left foot with such certainty.

I am not disappointed. I know where we collapsed. Our strength, the forwards, was our weakness.

There was no aggression in the forwards. My pack went on a tackling strike. We reached in the tackle. There was no full blooded stuff.

And our handling? Best forgotten!

Referee Kevin Roberts in action in the 1970s.
Referee Kevin Roberts in action in the 1970s. ©Rugby League Week.

 

Titled Refs: Who are they kidding?, this Johnny Raper column first appeared on August 9, 1975

View the original article from Rugby League Week

"Well boys, today I'm going to penalise you if you wave at the girl in the third row in the stand … "

"Well boys, today I'm going to penalise you if you blow a raspberry at me …

"Well boys, today I'm going to penalise you if you get mud on your shorts …"

And so every week it's something different.

Referees.

I'm beginning to wonder why I waste my breath on them.

On Sunday at Kogarah Oval I was in a rage after referee Kevin Roberts had spoken to my players before the game and then contradicted himself on the field.

He told my players he wanted to keep a good five yards.

Before my Cronulla players took the field I told them that they must not break the five-yard rule.

But, much to my astonishment, referee Roberts allowed St George to stand well inside the five and then turns around and penalises my side.

I don't want referees telling my players before a game what they expect from them.

I am the coach of Cronulla – not the referees.

I tell my players to stick to the rules and if they break them they have to face the consequences.

On no account should a referee be allowed to address players off the field.

His job is to enforce the rules on the field.

Inspections of boots and hands, etc, should be done by touch judges.

Give me one valid reason why a referee should be allowed to enter a dressing room before a game.

I was satisfied with Cronulla's form against St George.

I intend to retain Ken Kearney in my camp.

His tuition of hooker Greg Purcell enabled Cronulla to break even in the scrums.

Referees. I'm beginning to wonder why I waste my breath on them.

John Raper

Winning the ball from scrums holds the key to the fourth and fifth spots in the final five.

Cronulla players know that they will wrap up a final five by beating Souths, Manly and Wests.

In the first round we beat Souths 41-11; we lost to Manly 24-18; and we lost to Wests 26-20.

The defeats were by narrow margins and since then our defence has improved 50 per cent.

So it's a matter of getting an even share of the ball.

And the referees keeping both sides back five yards!