Todd Greenberg says everyone involved in rugby league must show more respect for referees for the greater good of the game.
The NRL’s head of football hopes the fallout from the so-called `Bad Friday’ scenes at ANZ Stadium – when match officials were pelted with bottles and shocking player conduct led to several Canterbury stars suspended and sanctioned – has provided some valuable lessons.
Bulldogs captain James Graham and teammate Dave Klemmer were outed for a total of four games after abusing referee Gerard Sutton, with hooker Michael Lichaa escaping a ban after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of dissent.
Graham received another two weeks for dangerous contact on Souths halfback Adam reynolds.
The Bulldogs, including chief executive Raelene Castle and coach Des Hasler, accepted the punishments and declared the league had “drawn a line in the sand” in regards to what defines tolerable player behaviour.
Greenberg on Tuesday night said referees, just like players, weren’t perfect and needed to be treated with greater respect for the code to flourish.
“I understand frustration. I also equally understand that people are emotional about their team. That’s one of the great things about rugby league,” he said on NRL 360.
“But there is a line and that line was crossed the other night. I think we’re all clear on that.”
Despite the NRL introducing an unprecedented policy this year which forbids players and coaches from publicly speaking about referees, which led to Hasler famously referring to them as Voldemorts, Greenberg insisted match officials weren’t a protected species.
“Let me say this, in relation to accountability, we have 20 fulltime referees,” he said.
“Last year, five of them didn’t come back. We didn’t renew contracts.
“That’s 25 per cent. People are being held accountable.
“It’s a tough gig this. Being a referee is a very tough part of the game … a fundamental part of the game and we’ve got to attract more people to be match officials and clearly the scenes the other night aren’t helping us to do that.”
Greenberg said support for referees needed to start at the grassroots level.
“I’ve stood on the sidelines of junior rugby league games and been very disappointed with what I’ve seen there,” he said.
“And clearly they’re a direct reflection of what they watch on television, how they see their heroes play.
“So we’ve all got a part to play in this to make sure we understand the respect component.”
More meetings between NSW police, the Bulldogs and ANZ Stadium management on Tuesday failed to identify the culprits responsible for throwing bottles onto the field after Sutton’s awarding of a last-minute penalty that allowed Souths to kick the winning goal sparked the ugly scenes.
“All of us are desperately trying to find the perpetrators and, if we do, we’ll do everything we can to make sure they’re not welcome back,” Greenberg said.
He added that while the NRL has the power to deduct clubs of competition points for unruly behaviour of their fans, that would be an extreme reaction.