VIDEO referees Steve Clark and Paul Simpkins will be the latest in a long line of officials to be dumped this year after the NRL admitted what we knew already - they got the Kieran Foran call horribly wrong on Friday night.
While referees' bosses Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper maintained that officials were correct in awarding Manly winger Jorge Taufua's controversial benefit-of-the-doubt try, they conceded they blundered when they missed a blatant strip in the lead-up to Cowboys flanker Antonio Winterstein's try when Taufua was ruled to have dropped the ball. Replays confirmed Ashley Graham stripped it.
Clark and Simpkins are expected to be stood down for two weeks, effectively ending their season and scuppering their chances of officiating in the grand final.
The development comes as Ricky Stuart savaged the ''incompetence'' of officials, fearing that a refereeing error would cost a team the grand final in the same way it cost NSW an Origin series.
''We lost an Origin series through the same thing, the incompetence of certain people,'' Stuart told The Sun-Herald yesterday.
''Until the commission wants to come out and fix it, it's going to be ongoing. We're going to have teams lose like us in the Origin series and the sudden-death semi-finals and [I fear] grand finals. Somebody has to be accountable. At the moment we don't have anyone who is accountable for the incompetence.''
North Queensland are still seething over the contentious calls yesterday, with football manager Peter Parr telling reporters at Sydney Airport: ''We believe those two crucial errors really decided the game. We thought they were both clear-cut decisions and we both thought they required only one look.''
The NRL dispatched a media release yesterday afternoon conceding a try to Michael Oldfield should not have been awarded because of a Foran knock-on in the lead-up.
However, Raper told The Sun-Herald that another pivotal four-pointer, to Winterstein, shouldn't have been allowed because of the Graham strip.
''That's plain to see … it wasn't picked up by the officials,'' he said.
Raper said there was no option but to axe Clark and Simpkins, although he stressed a more thorough debrief would be conducted tomorrow. ''We've set that standard throughout the year, that if we believe that the video refs have made a mistake that has affected point-scoring aspects … we think are big enough [and] the video ref has to pay the penalty for those decisions,'' Raper said.
The refereeing ranks have increasingly come under fire after a series of crucial decisions in big games were clearly wrong. Asked if he felt the standard of officiating had slipped this year, Harrigan said: ''No. [But] I haven't happy been happy with the video refereeing decisions this year.''
The current rules give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking team, although Harrigan revealed that, as part of an end-of-season review, some consideration could be given to giving the benefit of any doubt to the defensive side.
In the press release, the NRL's general manager of football operations, Nathan McGuirk, stated: ''Admitting that our video referees will make errors is something which we simply can't accept.''
However, Harrigan conceded there was always a chance that a grand final could be decided by an officiating blunder.
''That is always a question that comes up and people say that every year,'' Harrigan said. ''But nobody could give anybody a 100 per cent guarantee that it won't happen because we have a human element in the game. Nobody can say to anybody that a video referee's decision won't impact on the result of any game because of that human element.''