By Warren Boland
Blues coach Laurie Daley owes the referees from State of Origin One a public apology and he owes it right now.
The New South Wales coach called for the sacking of the Referee Gerard Sutton and Assistant Referee Ben Cummins for Game Two “based on history and based on that game”, saying “there were plenty of big calls that happened”
Daley did not elaborate in the press conference after the game and 20 hours later on Fox Sports was no more specific referring only to “some decisions” he felt went against NSW.
Spell it out Laurie. If you are going to openly question the competence ( or fairness) of the referees, you’ve got to back it up with evidence. What calls? What mistakes? Which games?
Laurie is universally admired and it’s easy to understand his disappointment after the narrow 6-4 loss to Queensland but he was unjustified and out of line in his comments.
There’s enough ref bashing goes on already without revered figures in the game like Lozza Daley going for the easy target.
Refs make mistakes and aren’t beyond rebuke but the day a coach has got the guts to publicly criticise his individual players by name for the mistakes they made will be the day he earns the right to have a shot at the referee in turn.
I didn’t hear Laurie mention the moment Josh Morris clumsily dropped the ball, or James Maloney blatantly pulling a leg after the tackle was complete and giving away two points, or Dylan Walker crudely trying to milk a penalty in the play the ball and denying the Blues a last chance to win the game.
Let’s take a look at the evidence.
The on-field refs awarded Boyd Cordner a try after a double-pump short pass from Maloney. As the time I thought it was a forward pass and I haven’t changed my mind after watching many replays. Forward or not, there’s no anti-NSW leaning in that instinctive decision by the refs.
The on-field refs ruled Josh Morris scored a try. No bias there against NSW! The bunker video ref Bernard Sutton then over-ruled. Virtually everyone agrees the ball didn’t reach the try-line and that the bunker was right.
There were two early penalties given against Adam Reynolds (for a lifting tackle on Nate Myles) and Paul Gallen (for a high tackle on Matt Scott). Both penalties against NSW were harsh.
Were the penalties technically correct? Probably, especially under NRL rather than traditional Origin standards. Did those 50/50 calls go against NSW? Yes.
There were two decisions from contested bombs in the last twenty minutes at Queensland’s end. On the field the ref twice ruled a NSW scrum feed. The bunker watched several replays trying – with difficulty – to determine who knocked on in the air. One of the on-field decisions was over-ruled by the bunker giving the Maroons a belated handover.
In another incident Sam Thaiday was ruled to have lost the ball but it’s obvious on replay that Adam Reynolds stripped the ball. Another on-field call that went NSW way!
If anything, there’s a pattern that emerged. The on-field referee’s decisions tended to be in favour of NSW but the bunker correctly over-ruled in favour of Queensland.
I know the whistleblowers look after their own but the referees boss Tony Archer has reviewed the Origin match and given the officials the thumbs-up especially in regards to the most vital and contentious decisions.
At the same time former number one ref and ex-refs boss Bill Harrigan also has a positive report for the refs, saying they made a few mistakes but were even-handed.
Don’t forget the penalty count was 4-all. You can’t get more even than that.
Were there other bad decisions or penalties that weren’t given? From my lounge room, I didn’t see any. Nor did the commentators.
So what is the Blues coach complaining about? I would seriously like to know.
It’s over to you, Laurie. Especially you, a respected legend of the game. You can’t call into question the performance of these top referees and just leave it hanging in the air.
You can’t damage their reputation and thereby the game’s reputation without producing your specific evidence “based on history and in that game”.
This is not even a case of put up or shut up.
You have to put up.