NRL chief Todd Greenberg says it's time 'to grow up' and stop blaming referees
Shane Flanagan and Trent Barrett will be hit with breach notices for separate referee tirades after their sides were dumped from the finals, with NRL boss Todd Greenberg telling the game to "grow up" and stop its officials-blaming culture.
The Sharks and Sea Eagles coaches will have salt rubbed into the wounds when their clubs are issued with fines as a forthright Greenberg launched a passionate defence of the men in the middle, slamming coaches for their treatment of referees.
"Unfortunately we've developed a culture in our game of blaming match officials for a loss," Greenberg said. "It sets a terrible example to fans and a terrible example to grassroots and it's got to to stop. It's time for the game to grow up.
"I'm not saying referees are perfect. They never have been and they never will be. I'm not saying our referees got every call right [in the first weekend of the finals], but I've reviewed the games and the vast majority of the calls were spot on.
"The disputes we're talking about are on some really tight calls – 50-50 calls. There will be debate and there will controversy no matter which way they go. That is the game.
"We expect a lot more from people in influential positions. Our coaches have a responsibility to the game as well as their clubs and their actions and comments must reflect that always. Emotion, passion and the heartbreak of your season ending is not an excuse. The game really does need to grow up."
The finals began with a weekend of high drama involving whistleblowers and NRL Bunker officials, most notable for stinging assessments of officialdom after the two elimination finals.
Both Flanagan and Barrett were livid with contentious calls which went against their sides as Cronulla and Manly were dumped out of the finals by North Queensland and Penrith respectively.
It's understood Flanagan and Barrett will be hit with large fines, possibly bigger than the standard A$10,000 which the NRL usually dishes out for inappropriate referees comments.
"What I saw [on Sunday] was not on and we can't allow that to happen," Greenberg said. "The players make mistakes too and that's what costs games. That's why teams lose, not the referees. That culture has to change.
"The refs are far from perfect and they need to be better. Everyone under the game is under pressure and the referees are no different. They've been held to account like never before in the game.
"But to suggest a team won't be playing finals football this weekend only due to refereeing errors is ridiculous and it needs to be called out."
Greenberg said referees boss Tony Archer has a "difficult job" and the game was facing a shortage of officials at a junior level.
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor and Cowboys clipboard carrier Paul Green have already been fined this season for post-match comments about referees.
- Sydney Morning Herald