The rugby league referee who came under fire for awarding a try that handed Otangarei Knights the Northland premier final has spoken out.
Takahiwai Warriors' players were fuming at referee Nick Waihi's decision to award the try scored by Dominique Ormsby with time almost up at Okara Park on August 4 when they team were leading on the scoreboard.
Otangarei won 26-24
"It's just so frustrating that a whole season's been decided on a refereeing decision. Depends on who you speak to and what colours they wear, our boys put in a solid performance over 80 minutes and it's just upsetting that it fell that way," Takahiwai coach/player Joel Freeman said post match.
"I am certainly not finding excuses but I knew that the refereeing decisions played a part."
But Waihi said he followed a process before confirming the try.
"Dom scores in the corner. I am coming across the goal line. I see the ball grounded in goal which is a try. I also see the corner flag go down but it's not part of the field," he explained.
"I see the touch judge standing in goal. That means he's happy with the try. I also see he has his flag up which instantly gives me confusion."
Waihi said he then stopped the clock and asked the touch judge Tesi Uilou to come over.
"I asked him why he put his flag up. He replied the player went out. I asked him before or after he scored the try. He said he did not see the grounding.
"I said to him I saw the grounding as clear as day. I was 1m away. He then said he was happy the player grounded the ball before he went out. So I then ask him "do you agree that's a fair try?" He says "yes".
Waihi said he then blew the whistle, signalled time on, and awarded the try.
He said both the the New Zealand Rugby League coach and an NRL referee he spoke to both agreed with his call.
He has refereed more than 200 games.
Waihi has been a referee for five years and is ranked No 1 in Northland.
Freeman also said the referee failed to send Otangarei players to the bin for repeated head high tackles— a claim Waihi denies.
"Joel had five personal penalty count. In fact, Takahiwai committed more head high tackles than Otangarei," he said.
Referees, Waihi said, were in such short demand it was ridiculous and advised players, coaches and fans to understand the processes match officials have to follow in certain situations.
He has urged those wishing to become referees to contact him through Rugby League Northland.