Fears are growing that the NRL’s crackdown on players making contact with referees could have an undue influence on the finals series.
The one-match suspension of Tyson Frizell last week for making incidental contact with Chris James has all NRL players on edge just a month out from the finals.
Canterbury prop David Klemmer was the first player to test the limits of referee contact when he successfully fought a two-match ban at the judiciary in March.
But incidents of match-official contact and the suspensions handed out since have only served to muddy the waters on the controversial issue.
Frizell’s contact did not appear as forceful as Klemmer’s touch on Ben Cummins in the round two win over Penrith in March.
But St George Illawarra star Frizell’s ban came in the week after the NRL moved to redefine how ‘intentional’ contact with a referee would constitute a ban.
Jarryd Hayne become the latest player caught up in the issue when he brushed against referee Gavin Reynolds in Gold Coast’s loss to the Warriors on Sunday in his first game in the NRL in almost two years.
Hayne was not charged by the match review committee over the contact.
Five months after he avoided a ban Klemmer, who received a contrary conduct ban for his remonstrations with Gerard Sutton last year, said on Monday he was still unsure if contact with a referee might or might not sideline him for a finals match.
“Definitely, it is semi-final time you don’t want to be missing a week for that,” he said at Bulldogs training at Belmore Sports Ground.
“They have to clarify that and bring in (a) more common sense (approach).
“If you push the referee sure it is one of those cases (for suspension).
“If you are telling a referee to buzz off in his face or using rude words and then pushing him out of they way …
“But if it is just a case of `sorry sir’ just and you are getting out of the way that should be OK.
“I felt really sorry for Tyson Frizell.”
Klemmer said players were not acutely aware of the presence of referees during a game.
“One or our players was touched by the referee on the weekend, so what happens there?” he said.
“Henry Perenara was standing right in the scrum (last weekend) and what are you supposed to do.
“He was right in the middle there and if you touch him you get suspended.
“You don’t know what to do.”