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NRL head of football Graham Annesley has appealed for players to “back off” from debating issues with referees after an increase in dissent heading into the Telstra Premiership finals.

Annesley has not spoken to referees about the issue but he warned players could face being penalised, sin-binned or even charged by the match review committee if they overstepped the mark.

All clubs were sent a document outlining refereeing interpretations at the start of this season which stated:

  • Referees will not debate decisions with captains; and,
  • The captain of a team is entitled to speak to a referee only to clarify a ruling.

"I don’t want to see games impacted at this stage of the season or in the finals, simply because players have the ability to control this," Annesley said.

"It would be far better for everyone if they avoided any risk of that, whether it be being marched 10 metres or sin bins or anything else.

"The rules are very clear, I don’t want to see it happen, I don’t want to see games impacted by it and the best way for that not to happen is for the players to back off a bit."

Graham Annesley weekly football briefing - Round 20

As the results of games take on more importance in the race for the top eight, Annesley said captains were questioning more decisions or trying to convince referees to rule against an opponent.

He said the tone and the regularity of comments towards referees were a concern.

"It’s just starting to get a bit edgier and a bit more regular," Annesley said.

"We are seeing more and more players questioning decisions and want to get involved in debates, or in some cases arguments, with the on-field referees about whether decisions are right or wrong and it is getting to the point where it is starting to get a little bit concerning.

"There is a bit of licence given to captains, in particular, in these circumstances and there always has been, where a referee will explain his ruling to a captain if he is asked.

"But we have seen it developing over recent weeks into more of a debate, where captains want to argue about whether decisions are correct or incorrect, or they want to press their point about their particular issue that they want the referee to concentrate on."

While Annesley does not intend to give referees any directive about dealing with dissent, he said they were aware of the options available to them if a player goes too far.

Get Caught Up: Round 20

"We see players marched an extra 10 metres occasionally and less occasionally we see a player sent to the sin bin if they continue to dispute decisions but under the laws of the game it falls into misconduct and you can be dismissed from the field or you can be charged by the judiciary," he said.

"I don’t want it to get to that point and I am hoping that the players and the coaches will take it on board and just pull it back a bit so that the referees don’t have to change the way they are dealing with things at the moment."

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