IT SEEMS rugby league has become a sport that cannot be played without controversy.
The Good Friday clash between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs was testament to this, marred by player dissention and hospitalised referees.
Group 2 Referees Association secretary John Cullen said NRL incidents were affecting the game in the regional centres.
"The kind of weekend we've just had doesn't help with referee recruitment," Cullen said. "When you see refs in the NRL put under the pump, young refs become nervous about joining up."
But Cullen said Group Two will not be marred by these types of controversies this season with all referees to be respected by teams.
"Most people in this group are very tolerant," he said. "They know we are all volunteers and giving up our time to do something we love.
"We don't have a lot of dramas about people complaining about calls in the middle."
Last season an incident occurred when a former South Grafton Rebels halfback Jay Melrose threatened the match official, James Maggio, who subsequently called full time and walked away from senior refereeing.
Group 2 sent a clear message that this was unacceptable by suspending Melrose for the season and Cullen believes the message was clearly received.
"We did lose an association member from that incident," he said. "But that is the worst incident I can remember for over two seasons. I don't expect anything like that to come about this season.
"The players know it is unacceptable."
The Group 2 refereeing ranks are currently stretched thin with some officials required to pull double shifts on the weekend to cover all games.