‘Hell to pay’: Public fallout fear scarring refs
The NRL is making life "impossible" for referees and the bunker because "there is hell to pay" when they get a decision wrong over what constitutes a sin bin and send off, and what doesn't.
That is the message from former NRL referees' boss and match review chairman Greg McCallum who is adamant all this confusion can be easily fixed, but only if the governing body is prepared to tackle the problem head on.
And that means they need to "get tougher" and "raise the bar".
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But McCallum argued the fear of public fallout is what makes it extremely difficult to make hard calls in the heat of the moment.
"I think that has been the underlying problem over the last decade," McCallum said.
"If you get it wrong there is hell to pay.
"I think it has caused them to back away from making the decisions that are going to put them into the spotlight in terms of dismissing players from the field."
But the way to fix it is not to go soft.
McCallum also reckons the confusion over inconsistency can relate to an individual's previous experience.
For instance, he reasons Ashley Klein's decision to send off Jack Hetherington for his careless high tackle on Valentine Holmes would have had something to do with the fact Klein was also caught up in the drama that followed his decision not to dismiss Melbourne's Felise Kaufusi for his sickening tackle that severely concussed Parramatta's Ryan Matterson.
"So he has obviously copped a rocket," McCallum said.
"So when he is presented with (what happened in Townsville on Sunday) he will dismiss the player.
"There seems to be a disjoint between the referees, the bunker and the judiciary.
"That is how it appears to me from the outside.
"And sometimes when you get to this position you have to go a little bit the other way. You have to come down a bit harder until you can get control of it."
He reckons Latrell Mitchell should also have been sin binned for his dangerous shot on David Nofoaluma.
"It was late. I think under the circumstances I think a sin bin would have been appropriate," he said.
"But my observation is it seems to be that the bunker is being asked to do more and more. Now they are being asked to determine in acts of foul play whether there is likely to be a charge or not - and they are trying to figure that out when you can't do that on the spur of the moment.
"You can't have a committee meeting in the middle of the game."
McCallum reckons it could be fixed "but it takes a bit of pain".
"You have to raise the bar. The bar keeps slipping. Get tougher. Be stronger," he said.
"Come down hard the other way, not come down the easy side, or the more comfortable side.
"It is not an easy job.
"We really got stuck in for 10 years and we had some significant charges and we cleaned the game up a fair bit.
"But at the moment, it is just starting to sneak back in again.
"There is some pretty ordinary stuff going on, particularly with forearms and dropping down on players … for me that is finding excuses not to charge players. I think you've got to sometimes just charge them and let the system work it out. That keeps the bar high."
Originally published as 'Hell to pay': Public fallout fear scarring refs