NRL: Warriors coach wants refs kept quiet

By Michael Brown

Warriors coach Matthew Elliott during a New Zealand Warriors NRL pre-season training session. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott during a New Zealand Warriors NRL pre-season training session. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors coach Matt Elliott thinks NRL referees are scared to make decisions because they are miked up and believes the microphones need to be switched off to allow them to communicate with players and let the game flow.

Elliott would prefer to see the NRL follow the lead of American football, where referees turn their microphones on only to communicate their reasons behind a decision.

The recommendation comes in a week when rugby league bosses outlined their plans to ban shoulder charges in the NRL, which has drawn the ire of many players and fans who felt often dramatic collisions were the one thing that made rugby league unique.

Bosses and medicos are concerned, however, about player welfare, and the number of serious head traumas occurring in American football is only adding weight to their argument. The decision is expected to be ratified by the Australian Rugby League Commission next month and brought into effect for next year's competition.

The reality is shoulder charges made up only a small minority of tackles - a report into the frequency found it made up 0.05 per cent of the 142,355 tackles this year - so the change will be minimal.

Elliott's suggestion would have a bigger impact and he intends raising the matter with new referees boss and former Warriors coach Daniel Anderson. Referees have worn microphones which can be heard by TV and radio audiences, as well as spectators at the ground on 'sports ears', for some time.

"We have talented refs but they aren't refereeing like they can because they look like they have a lot on their mind rather than just refereeing the game," Elliott said.

"My one request is that I think refs should be almost like in the NFL and when they want to explain a decision they turn the mic on. When they walk into a scrum, 'that was a knock-on or that penalty was for this', but then it's off.

"They have been deprived the opportunity to manage the game because everyone is listening to them. I just think they are being over-scrutinised and perhaps overcoached for all the right reasons. They looked tight to me last year, scared to make decisions."

Players will now be wary about shoulder charges and Warriors prop Ben Matulino, one of the game's best exponents of using his shoulder in tackles, has called on the NRL judiciary to show some leniency as players adjust.

It's something he has practiced since he was a youngster and he believes it has a place in the game.

"It will be sad to see people suspended for a couple of weeks just because of a shoulder charge but if they are lenient it will be a lot better for us," he said. "I will try my best not to do it.

"I know there will be times in the game when I want to go for a shot and it will probably happen and I'll give up a penalty for the team. I will learn over time.

"I'm a bit disappointed to see it go but it's something I have to adapt to ... but there aren't too many big hits in a game anyway. I think the downside of it is that it's a crowd pleaser."

- APNZ

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