NO PENALTY: Bronco James Roberts kicks out at Titan Ryan Simpkins.
NO PENALTY: Bronco James Roberts kicks out at Titan Ryan Simpkins. DAVE HUNT

Two hesitant referees are botching the game

IF, AS NRL referees boss Tony Archer explained on Saturday, Gerard Sutton made an incorrect decision when penalising David Mead for being involved in the spectacular upending of Corey Oates the night before, why wasn't the same message passed on to the rest of the whistle blowers?

And, more importantly, why did Sutton, undoubtedly the No.1 referee in the game, get the call so wrong?

Maybe because the referees at NRL level are like us, the fans - they are totally confused.

And proof of that confusion came on Saturday evening during the Raiders-Sharks final in Canberra.

Raiders winger Jordan Rapana was penalised for an identical incident to the one involving Mead and Oates.

Driving home to the Sunshine Coast from Friday's elimination final in Brisbane I was radio dial twiddling.

Three networks - the ABC, Triple M and 2GB-4BC - had covered the match.

And the commentary - on each network - was scathing of the match officials.

Former players and veteran rugby league commentators were not just unhappy - they sounded disillusioned.

Sitting at the ground watching the match I agreed with the consensus that the Broncos received the rub of the green from the match officials and that a couple of the calls were dubious.

But the vitriol from these commentators stunned me.

A former 4BC colleague and an ex-referee, Mark Braybrook, made the most practical and revealing observation when he said that when referees now made it to NRL level, they were entering a totally foreign environment.

While they had reached the top in their profession operating as a lone wolf, now they had to share their decision-making responsibilities.

And it just isn't working.

Being assertive and using common sense is a major ingredient when ruling on incidents in the game and sharing that responsibility is not conducive to good outcomes.

That has become more and more evident as the two-referee system continues to not only bewilder players and fans but, more critically, confuses those men in the middle.

As the season reaches its culmination, many of them appear to be losing their poise, in particular Gerard Sutton.

The James Roberts kicking incident on Friday night is a case in point.

As the senior referee, why did he not rule on that, or was he relying on his assistant Gavin Badger to make the call?

That query is raised because surely one of the four officials on the ground must have seen the kick.

So was it a case of each of the four waiting for someone else to make the call?

For mine, the sooner the game returns to one referee the better.

And, because he is the best referee of the modern era, bring back Bill Harrigan to be their boss.