CANTERBURY will fight a $10,000 fine against coach Des Hasler after the Bulldogs coach was accused of using a false account of an on-field discussion between match officials to imply that decisions in last Saturday night's game against Newcastle had been predetermined.
The action against Hasler comes with match officials under fire on multiple fronts - including interpretation of the obstruction rule, which referees bosses Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper admit often polarises opinion.
Hasler's fine followed revelations in yesterday's Herald that the NRL had introduced tighter regulations on the criticism of referees, which prohibit excessive comment, attacks on character and generalisations that affect public confidence.
However, the Herald was told Hasler would have faced the same penalty before the policy change after the NRL yesterday reviewed the audio from referees Brett Suttor and Jason Robinson and could not find the comments to which Hasler referred at the post-match press conference.
''One thing I couldn't understand was toward the back end of the first half … the referees are talking between themselves saying, 'This game is going to change, this game is going to change, this game is going to change' … and the next time … there's … you know … we get a run of penalties … there's four penalties against us,'' Hasler said.
He had already made a point of highlighting the performances of Suttor and Robinson, and the NRL believes Hasler used the conversation to infer that subsequent decisions were predetermined.
Not only did the Bulldogs receive the next penalty, but the only similar comment on the match audio was when Suttor reminded the other match officials after a try of the need to remain alert. ''We just have to remember that Newcastle hasn't had the ball yet so this could turn around very quickly,'' Suttor said.
Robinson replied: ''Very true.''
ARLC general manager of football, Nathan McGuirk, said Hasler had made the comments just two days after all clubs were warned about the tighter regulations on criticising referees, which also require coaches to avoid attacking their ''general competence''.
''Coaches have the ability to be critical of decisions,'' McGuirk said. ''What we have said is that in doing so they should not question the character or integrity of the officials and … not use emotive generalisations.
''In this case, it is our view that there was a clear inference drawn by the Bulldogs that the referees had a predetermined view in the decisions they were to take for the remainder of the half.''
Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg confirmed the Bulldogs intended to lodge an appeal before next Tuesday's deadline for accepting the fine.
Meanwhile, Raper backed video referee Phil Cooley's decision to disallow two tries to Manly in Saturday night's 8-6 defeat of North Queensland due to obstruction. ''The decoy runners have a responsibility not to get in the way of the defensive line,'' Raper said. ''In one instance, Anthony Watmough runs straight at the defender and, as Glenn Hall is going out, he braces himself thinking there is a collision and falls over.
''People can call it a dive but he braces himself for a collision with Watmough. That is why the try was taken off Manly.
''In the other one, Steve Matai does the same thing. He runs straight into the defender [Brent Tate] and blocks him from having any opportunity to make a tackle.''
Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey said afterwards that the obstruction rule was causing confusion, and Harrigan admitted not everyone would agree on rulings.
''We have got indicators that the video referees abide by to help them make a decision but it is not black and white,'' Harrigan said.
''On a couple of occasions the video referees have got it wrong because they have moved away from those indicators but I can tell you there are still players, referees and coaches who see an obstruction and have a difference of opinion on it.''