Question for you NRL:
Now that you’ve gotten rid of the pink jerseys, can you feel the respect coming forth?
Can you feel it? David Klemmer’s got it. And boy, isn’t he giving it to the refs now that they have dropped the girly colour. And this muppet has worn the green and gold (Klemmer not Graham).
Do I think the refs should be a protected species? Well, yes and no. Protected from poor decision making, no. Protected from verbal (and physical now it would seem) abuse from players and fans, yes!
There is a level of theatrics that has crept into our game in the past decade and it doesn’t auger well. I know it’s a game of inches and seconds and that both of those can ultimately decide a season, and where professional players run hard at each other week after week, teams will leave no stone unturned to gain a competitive advantage.
But the dives and histrionics of players is starting to make ‘our’ game more like the ‘world’ game. It’s no wonder that we are starting to see the problem growing on the field in the junior ranks. And it’s also what is happening in the stands and on the sidelines that is starting to concern me.
I understand a footy fan rides the rollercoaster with their team and the weeks tension is concentrated during an 80 minute game. Arms are thrown in the air, face palms aplenty and displeasure at a referee decision is par for the course over 80 minutes.
But I’ve noticed the ‘Come on Ref!’ and ‘Do your job!’ or the ‘You’ve got to be joking!’ are few and far between. These are replaced by more aggressive and expletive laden outbursts directed at the refs. I am more acutely aware of it when I have my 5 year old in tow. No one polices it. The way it’s been going at Cbus Stadium, if abusive language directed at the refs meant expulsion there would be about 50 of us left.
But more alarmingly this is being transferred into junior rugby league. (I know it’s always been there in the Seniors – I was introduced to rugby league via bush footy and swearing seems to be inextricably linked both on and off the park.)
Just five days prior to the ‘Good’ Friday match between Souths and the Bulldogs I was covering a girls tournament for the QRL. The first match I covered was an U15s girls club game which had to be called off when the ref refused to continue. The referee, still a school girl herself I’m guessing, was subjected verbal abuse both on and off the field. I’m pretty sure it was the call of ‘Shoot the referee!’ from the sideline which saw the game abandoned 5 seconds later. This of course incensed the crowd even further.
And good on her for making that decision. It’s a Saturday afternoon, the game is not even being scored. Why should anyone put themselves out of their way to be abused in return? Refs certainly don’t earn that much, not for a 15 minute under 15s game.
There are many sad reflections I draw from all of this:
- Will there ever be a rugby league match I can take my kids to without having to explain away the limited vocabulary of others?
- How will a new generation of referees be recruited to keep this game going, even in the junior levels?
- I understand the high stakes game of rugby league can cause stress even in professional players. That’s why the best are disciplined. If you’re not, best hand back that green and gold right now.
- It’s a game. Your team won’t win every game or get every referee decision your way. Accept it now.