NRL head of football Graham Annesley is set to discuss on-field comments made by Warriors captain Blake Green with the club’s CEO Cameron George and has backed the sin-binning of prop Adam Blair in last Friday’s defeat of Manly at Mt Smart Stadium.
Green took issue with Blair’s sin-binning for a professional foul 13 minutes from full-time and vented his frustration over a number of contentious decisions against the Warriors in recent matches by telling referee Ben Cummins: "Just kick us out of the comp, man."
The comments by the Warriors halfback followed George’s call to fans attending the club’s previous game against Canberra to “dress up as referees and bring a whistle” after four match officials were relegated for costly errors in their 24-22 loss to Parramatta.
Former Warriors players and officials have also claimed there has been a bias against the New Zealand club since they entered the ARL premiership in 1995, with accusations made 20 years ago that match officials had been heard conspiring to get their story straight after a send-off repeated in the media.
Some have likened Green’s comments to those which prompted Bill Harrigan to send off Manly captain Geoff Toovey in the first match after Super League and ARL merged to form the NRL in 1998.
Harrigan was a Super League referee and the Sea Eagles were one of the ARL’s flagship clubs.
However, Annesley did not believe Green had questioned the integrity of Cummins or other match officials with his comment during last Friday night’s 24-16 win over Manly.
"It depends how you take his comments - they could have been aimed at the NRL," Annesley said. "I think in relation to the Green comments, they were made on the field in some degree of frustration over a number of weeks.
"I don’t think it falls into the category of abusing anybody. He certainly didn’t abuse the referee. I am not condoning it. He made a comment which I don’t agree with, I don’t think he should have made but it was made in frustration and I don’t think anyone would expect any action to flow from that."
The incident occurred after Annesley last week appealed to captains not to debate issues with referees in the hope of avoiding the possibility during the finals of a player being penalised or sin-binned for dissent.
Annesley said no instructions had been given to referees but he repeated his warning to players at Monday’s weekly media briefing.
"Usually it involves much more direct abuse of match officials, in-your-face sort of stuff or questioning their integrity or decisions they have just made," Annesley said.
"You could say maybe he is questioning the decision. Players, if they do that, are running a risk. If a referee takes exception to that they could be penalised or be sent to the sin bin. It’s a judgement call for the match officials."
Green later admitted he should not have made the comments but he believed Cummins was wrong to sin-bin Blair after Manly hooker Manase Fainu ran into his back as he chased a kick into the in-goal.
However, Annesley showed a number of camera angles at the media briefing that demonstrated how Blair had “stuttered” as he was running towards the ball so that Fainu collided with him.
"He doesn’t stop completely but certainly his stride length changes and he prepares for contact," he said. "Some of these things are quite subtle and some players are quite good at these subtleties to escort the ball."
Annesley said he did not intend to contact Green but was expecting to have a conversation with George at Wednesday’s CEO conference.
"We don’t have any control of what they say privately [but] players need to be reminded too that sometimes the things they say on the field, with referees being mic’d, is recorded and then goes to air so it is not a good practice to get into if you don’t want to at some point be caught for something that is objectionable."