You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Fans, media listen up: Making refs the scapegoat is boring

Not only is the constant whingeing about refereeing after a match boring, but it is all but pointless.

As footy fans we need to get better at accepting that and also accepting that sometimes calls go your way and sometimes they do not.

Mistakes also happen, just like they do in all facets of life.

On Saturday night, footy fans were treated to a finals match for the ages between Penrith and Parramatta.

It was one of the best games of the year.

There seems to be a prevailing myth that high-scoring games with plenty of razzle-dazzle tries are the best sort of footy games.

Johnston v Saab: Two try-scoring machines face off

They certainly have their place but on Saturday night there were only two tries scored, both early in the first half and I sat on the edge of my seat for the rest of the game.

It was tough. It was physical. The defence from both teams was desperate. There was a sense that an error could be a pivotal turning point in the match and the way each team celebrated when their opposition made an error shows the players thought the same.

That’s the sort of rugby league that I love.

Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles - Preliminary Final

Despite my team being on the losing end of the scoreboard, at the end of the match I was immensely proud of the players because I knew that they had left it all out on the field. As a fan you can’t really ask for more than that.

Instead of focusing on the effort from both teams and the quality of the match, a lot of the commentary this week has been focused on refereeing decisions.

It’s boring and for me, takes away from the effort of the Eels and the Panthers.

Storm v Panthers - Preliminary final

As a Parramatta fan, I don’t really care about about the outcome of the incident involving the trainer and Mitch Kenny. Because it doesn’t help my team.

The result is the result.

I am not saying that referees are above reproach but talking endlessly about whether they made the wrong or right call is unhelpful. 

The focus we have on referees in rugby league borders on unhealthy and seems different to almost every other sport I follow.

It is on show on the field when we see the way some players address referees. There are coaches who choose to make the referees the focus of their post-match pressers.

It is on show in the commentary box where so many commentators and people in the media question decisions non-stop, look for controversy at every opportunity and in some circumstances, the critics don’t even know the rules.

It shows when we as fans spend our time focused on the refereeing errors rather than on the mistakes our players made at crucial points in the game.

The focus we have on referees in rugby league borders on unhealthy.

Because the referees are not on ‘our team’, or anyone’s team for that matter, I feel like they are easy scapegoats.

For Parramatta, there was 80 minutes of football to win the game. They did not. That’s the end of the story. It did not turn on a penalty goal before half-time because Penrith had many chances to take the two in the second half and we will never know whether Parramatta would have scored had play continued instead of being stopped for Kenny’s injury.

Instead of focusing on the referees and the idea that a refereeing decision is going to cost one of the four remaining teams, I have another wild and crazy idea - let's just enjoy the footy.

Who will win the Dally M Medal?

That is especially relevant for the four supporter bases that still have teams in the finals.

Having the chance to watch your team in a preliminary final is a privilege and it should not be taken for granted.

Growing up as an Eels fan during the club's consistent run in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I took finals football for granted. It wasn’t until after 2001 that I realised my team was not guaranteed to reach the playoffs each year.

Who is your rookie of the year?

So anytime the Eels make the finals, I relish it because there are thousands of fans envious of your team.

For two out of the four teams remaining, this will be their fans last opportunity to cheer them on before a long off-season. Ride those 80 minutes like it may be your teams last.

Because after this weekend there will only be two teams left.

I’m hopeful we can all help change the narrative and spend the next week talking about some enthralling finals matches this weekend in the lead-up to the grand final.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.

Acknowledgement of Country

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.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners