Referees' spokesman claims vilification the worst it has been

TALKING POINT: Grafton captain Ryan Farrell pleads his case to the referee in a match against Ballina at Frank McGuren Field. Photo Adam Hourigan
TALKING POINT: Grafton captain Ryan Farrell pleads his case to the referee in a match against Ballina at Frank McGuren Field. Photo Adam Hourigan

ABUSE of referees is increasing and becoming worse.


That is the verdict from Northern Rivers Referees Association secretary Wil Constable who said the level of abuse directed at referees was beyond the worst he has seen.

"You've heard the vitriol at the grounds. The last 12 months have been the worst," Constable said.

"It is nothing short of homophobic vilification. It's getting to a point where the referees, who spend their Sundays copping abuse, are questioning whether it is worth the travel to cop it.

"I refereed for about 15 years and I stopped doing it because I was sick and tired of being called everything under the sun."

His comments come after two local league officials prepare to face sanction from the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League.

Grafton Ghosts' conditioning coach Terry West and South Grafton Rebels team manager Brad Rodder are both in hot water over recent comments, with the latter expected to face a lengthy ban from the competition.

West's breach relates to a letter to the editor pub- lished in The Daily Examiner on May 7, where the highly respected athletics coach aired his concerns regarding the quality of refereeing.

Constable said it would be inappropriate for him to make any comment on the two cases, but did say that every club had a process to follow when it came to complaints.

"All clubs are aware of the process but most don't follow it," Constable said.

"They all have the opportunity to complete a match official review, which is contained in the operations manual. .

"The form is forwarded to the league and the referees appointing panel. This process is an important voice for all clubs, but few clubs choose to use it.

"We have received four in the past five years."

Constable added that referees have access to DVDs of all games, and receive "about 12 or 13 written evaluations" of their performances per year.

"We're very pleased with the history of referees in our group," Constable said.

"We have guys like Troy Martin who has been involved for a long time and Pete O'Connor who is the most experienced referee in the CRL.

"I'm very confident that if you speak to representative players, they come back with a newfound respect for the referees in our competition and that is something we are proud of."

NRRRL president Brian Rix voiced his support, saying the competition had some of the best referees in the Country Rugby League.

"We have better referees than most other country leagues," Rix said.

"Most country leagues are pushed for refs and I would say the constant abuse scares them away.

"We leave the referees up to their association and, even then, the calls are left up to the interpretation of the individual."

While he is willing to defend the referees to the death, Constable did admit the current process of becoming a referee was not as good as what it used to be.

Since the ARLC came into effect, the process of becoming a referee has changed to a more online focus.

"It is less practical than in recent years," Constable said.

"There has been a huge shift in how we recruit referees.

"I'm a big advocate for the use of technology but it requires a larger amount of time online. That's good for younger refs but may leave some the older guys behind," he said.

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