NRL given another black eye: Bennett

On a day another player escaped sanction for touching an official, Wayne Bennett claimed the NRL’s inability to place a blanket ban on referee contact had given the game a black eye.

Bennett asked for common sense to prevail, saying the NRL could have solved the problem by alerting clubs that they were targeting the issue.

“Consistency is always an issue,” Bennett said.

“We kind of give ourselves a black eye all the time – I don’t know why we do it.”

The NRL’s crackdown on referee contact by players appeared to take another hit after North Queensland second-rower Ethan Lowe was cleared by the match review committee (MRC) of touching an official in Thursday night’s win over the Sydney Roosters.

Lowe had made contact with whistleblower Gerard Sutton in the first half of the Cowboys’ 40-0 win but no charges were handed out on Friday by the MRC.

Incidental touching of referees had come under the spotlight since Canterbury prop David Klemmer was charged – and later found not guilty by the judiciary – of contrary conduct.

“It’s like the shoulder charge, they all need a bit of common sense,” Bennett said of the NRL’s referee contact crackdown.

“If there is no common sense down there (MRC) you will have to make it a blanket ban.

“Either way just tell us what is going on.”

Newly appointed NRL CEO Todd Greenberg admitted he was disappointed by Wednesday night’s Klemmer verdict but said the judicial process was “not perfect”.

“This week we’ve seen it. That’s the system we work under,” he said.

“I was disappointed with the (Klemmer) result this week but that highlights the independence of the process.”

The Bulldogs were bristling that Klemmer was even charged after Parramatta’s Corey Norman, Penrith’s Trent Merrin and Wests Tigers’ Mitchell Moses did not come under the scrutiny of the MRC for similar incidents over the first two rounds.

Bennett believed red faces at the NRL could have been avoided if the league had simply alerted clubs of a crackdown on referee contact by players.

“It could have been solved pretty easily,” he said.

“If they thought it was an issue then why didn’t they just advise us all, so we could tell the players, just to remind them.

“They obviously had a plan in their heads.

“If they want to do a blanket ban, then why didn’t they tell us first because I didn’t know this was happening.”

Bennett said he tended not to notice referee contact incidents during games and didn’t have a problem with any of the recent ones he’d seen on replay.

“I didn’t see what was offensive,” he said of the contact.

“What we don’t want is players patting referees on the head like they did 20 years ago.”

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