BILL HARRIGAN and Stuart Raper's refusal to concede match officials got controversial decisions wrong in State of Origin led to the sacking of the referees bosses yesterday.
A review of refereeing this season resulted in Harrigan and Raper being replaced by a single referees boss next season and the Herald was told the controversial Greg Inglis try in Origin I and Justin Hodges try in the series decider had played a part in their downfall.
NSW officials believe the decisions cost the Blues their first Origin series victory since 2005.
''If they had just come out and said it was a shepherd by Justin Hodges and the try shouldn't have been awarded, the game would have avoided all the confusion over obstructions at the end of the season,'' one official said.
Harrigan backed video referee Steve Clark's call that Beau Scott had not been obstructed by Hodges running behind Ben Hannant in the lead up to the try.
Harrigan also defended the decision by video referee Sean Hampstead to award a match-sealing try to Inglis in Origin I after he planted the ball on Robbie Farah's foot and appeared to lose control of it.
At the time, NSW trailed 12-10 and the try extended the Maroons lead to 18-10, while the Blues were beaten 21-20 in Origin III.
The controversies led to a mid-season review of refereeing but it was announced on June 7 that Harrigan and Raper would remain in charge of referees.
However, NRL football operations general manager Nathan McGuirk announced yesterday that Harrigan and Raper had been axed as part of a leadership restructure for refereeing.
Harrigan, who has been employed in an off-field capacity since the formation of the NRL in 1998, said: ''It's time for me to move on''.
Raper said in a text that he had no comment, ''only that I am disappointed with their decision''.
It is understood Raper and Harrigan only learnt their fate yesterday afternoon, with the ARL Commission making the news official via a press release shortly after the Herald broke the story on Twitter.
The decision brings an abrupt end to Harrigan's 35-year career in refereeing, which began in 1977 and resulted in him leaving the police in 1995 to pursue a full-time career with the whistle.
After setting several records during his 392 games in the middle, he moved into coaching. ''I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a referee on the field, I enjoyed my years as an assistant coach and the last two years as the coach of the referees,'' Harrigan said.
''I wish all the referees the best for season 2013 and it's time for me to move onto a new stage of life. What that is at the moment, I don't know.''
Former Test whistleblower Russell Smith, who was an assistant referees coach to Harrigan and Raper, was appointed interim manager of the referees department and will assist McGuirk in finalising the make-up of the 2013 squad.
Smith is expected to come under consideration for the new role of referees elite performance manager, along with Clark, who is currently in charge of the lower grade referees.
It is unclear whether Clark's role in awarding a try during the finals to Manly winger Michael Oldfield, after teammate Kieran Foran had knocked the ball on, would count against him after he was dumped as video referee for the decision.
Grand final referee Tony Archer may be also be a candidate, while there would be support for veteran coaches Brian Smith and Tim Sheens following their axing by Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers.
''Bill and Stuart have been part of a dual-coaching structure and it is time to move to a new model,'' McGuirk said.
''Nobody could criticise their commitment but, as we have reviewed the year from a number of perspectives, it has become clear that we need one person to manage what is a high performance team.
''Bill and Stuart have increased the depth of talent in the squad and that has been one of the real positives over the last two years. I certainly wish to thank them for the contribution they have made.''
Commission interim chief executive Shane Mattiske thanked Raper and Harrigan.
''Bill has made an incredible contribution to refereeing in a career that will forever stand out in the game's record books,'' Mattiske said.
''He and Stuart have worked incredibly hard over the last two years in particular, and there is a strong sense of gratitude on our part for their efforts, but we also believe that a new structure is needed.''