NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has launched an impassioned defence of the suspensions handed to players charged with touching a referee.
The issue has been a constant source of conflict throughout the season after the game’s governing body had sought to crack down on the trend of players making contact with match officials.
It flared last month when St George Illawarra and NSW State of Origin back-rower Tyson Frizell was rubbed out for one week for making what appeared to be minor and incidental contact with referee Chris James.
Many argued the severity of the offence was outweighed by the penalty, considering some players had escaped sanction for different yet more harmful offences – such as Ryan James who was allowed to play the next week despite breaking James Tedesco’s jaw in a high tackle.
However, Greenberg was unequivocal – that if a player made contact with an official that could be avoided, then he would be suspended.
“You know what, don’t touch the referee and you won’t have that issue to worry about,” Greenberg said.
“Players should be under no illusions – if you touch the referee, there are consequences.”
Greenberg said the match review committee did differentiate between avoidable and non-avoidable contact and many players had escaped charges because their brush with an official was deemed accidental.
He said the rule had been brought in to increase respect for referees and clamp down on the trend of players crowding officials when challenging a decision.
“If a player walks through and touches a referee, and he could have avoided that contact, then he’s going to get charged,” Greenberg said.
“There has been a spate over the last two years, that we’re still seeing now, where players rush referees and get in their faces.
“We’re not going to stand around and watch that happen.”
Following a meeting of club chief executives on Thursday at Rugby League Central, Greenberg also revealed former Penrith coach Ivan Cleary would conduct a review of the NRL bunker.
He will look at the preparation and performance review of officials and report back after the grand final.