Rugby League


Top dog Hasler defends referees

On the same day under-fire NRL referees co-coaches Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper were told their positions were under review, they received support from an unlikely source.

Canterbury coach Des Hasler, who once offered to pay for two touch judges to have an appointment with eye specialists OPSM, came out in defence of the referees - pointing the blame at the media.

Match officials have been in the firing line since some contentious decisions that upset NSW in last week's State of Origin opener in Melbourne. Harrigan and Raper came in for heavy criticism.

A newspaper report went as far as to suggest the pair had lost the faith of senior referees.

Yesterday they found out the ARL Commission would be conducting an immediate review into the game's match official operations, with their jobs believed to be on the line.

Curiously it was Hasler who leapt to their defence, saying referees do not receive the same protection as officials in other sports.


''The referees in AFL, NBA and NFL football are more revered,'' Hasler said. ''To a certain extent referees are more persecuted in our game and you blokes [the media] have a fair bit to do with that.

''I back it up by saying it is part of the culture of rugby league to give it to the referee.

''Coaches don't pick on referees, coaches just point out where they can improve.''

Despite his claims, Hasler has himself been a staunch critic of officials in the past.

Two years ago when Parramatta scored a famous comeback victory over the Sea Eagles thanks to several contentious decisions, including one try that had two forward passes in it, Hasler unloaded on touch judges Jeff Younis and Gavin Reynolds.

''I'll personally pay for those two touchies to visit OPSM and get a check-up because I didn't know we'd reverted to gridiron,'' Hasler said at the time.

However, the two-time premiership-winning coach said yesterday that officials in the modern game needed support, not widespread criticism, and denied there's a lack of respect for them from players and coaches.

A document outlining Harrigan's perceived failings as referees boss appears to have been a trigger for the refereeing review. Raper and Halligan released a joint statement yesterday.

''We are happy to assist with a review into the structures in place with the match officials' operations and development,'' Harrigan read. ''We are confident that we have the right procedures in place and, as always, our focus remains on working to ensure our entire squad of match officials continue to perform at the highest possible standards.''AAP