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Referees Grant Atkins and Gavin Badger have been relegated after allowing play to continue for almost a minute as Cowboys winger Nene Macdonald writhed in agony with a potentially season-ending ankle injury.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley announced the decision on Monday after an investigation into the incident, also revealing Josh McGuire escaped a more serious charge for an alleged eye-gouge on Cameron Munster due to insufficient video evidence.

Senior official Atkins and assistant Badger have worn heavy criticism for failing to call time-off when Macdonald suffered a badly fractured ankle during Melbourne's 18-12 win over North Queensland last Friday.

Annesley said while the referees' audio did not pick up the pleas of Cowboys trainers for the game to be stopped, Atkins and Badger will be relegated due to the mishandling of Macdonald's injury "and a number of other issues in that game".

"The game continued for another four tackles and about 53 seconds all up before the referee stopped the game to go back and allow the medicab to come onto the field for the players to be removed from the field," Annesley said.

"As an administration we didn't find that acceptable, that it took as long as it did for the game to stop.

"There were any number of eyes across that through the on-field officials and match-day coach who was also watching the game.

Annesley takes action

"We felt there was ample opportunity for the game to be stopped earlier than it was, as early as literally from the time when the incident took place."

The demotions of Atkins and Badger will be confirmed in Tuesday's round-six referees' announcement.

Annesley said the pair were the only two officials involved in this game to be relegated "at this stage", despite touch judge Belinda Sharp being closest to the injured Cowboys and medical staff when Macdonald and teammate John Asiata went down.

Annesley also revealed the match review committee did not hand McGuire a charge of eye gouging due to obscured camera angles that did not show definitive contact with Munster's eyes.

McGuire has accepted a grade-one contrary conduct charge over the incident, copping a $3,350 fine that will allow him to line up for North Queensland this Saturday against the Warriors.

Munster initially reeled out of McGuire's tackle clutching at his face and remonstrating over the contact, but declined to make an on-field complaint against his Maroons teammate.

Without an official complaint lodged, the match review committee was left relying solely on video evidence in handing down any charge that could be challenged at the judiciary.

Annesley produced the two relevant camera angles during his weekly briefing that showed McGuire's hand raking across Munster's face, with neither shot showing his fingers making clear contact with the Storm five-eighth's eyes.

"I have been absolutely assured that if they had that evidence, it would have been a different charge, it would have been dangerous contact and it would have been a referred charge straight to the judiciary," Annesley said.

"People can draw their own conclusions and agree or disagree, but the committee didn't believe that they had sufficient evidence to sustain the charge that involved any kind of eye gouging.

"[The MRC] have to believe that they have reasonable prospects of a player being found guilty based on the video evidence if there's no other evidence ... the match review committee felt that in all honesty they could not sustain a charge that talks about gouging eyes."

Get Caught Up: Round 5

The NRL has not been made aware of suggestions Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake was racially abused by crowd members in Saturday's win over Newcastle.

Of Fonua-Blake's hostile reception from the Knights' faithful after being sin-binned for a high shot on Mitchell Pearce, Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said: "some of the booing was a bit unsavoury, but I'll leave it that. I'm sure you'll find out. It was all heat of the moment."

Fonua-Blake is challenging a high tackle charge at Tuesday night's judiciary, and faces a two-game suspension if he is unsuccessful due to prior offences and carry-over points.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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