NRL referees can “perform” afterall…what a pity it’s in the wrong arena.

Just over a year ago, it was the Canterbury Bulldogs (or some of them)
who “rained” on the National Rugby League’s preseason publicity push. This year
it is, wait for it, the referees!

Readers will know I have been somewhat underwhelmed by the on field
performance of many NRL referees. But if the off field “performance” of some of
the game’s “up and coming” whistleblowers was translated to match day then all
will be forgiven!

On the day David “Slow” Gallop gave a typical rambling, exclusive
interview to the News Limited dailies talking up the 2005 season, the Sydney
Morning Herald
has revealed a sex romp at a “referee development camp” (could
have been better named) last weekend.

And the “penalties” handed out to the referees show that the NRL/ARL
has finally decided to get tough with wayward officials (but not necessarily
players).

The SMH has revealed that two referees have been barred for life, and another
three suspended for the rest of the season, “after a drunken sex romp at a
referee development camp last Saturday night”.

Apparently one of the young whistleblowers brought a young lady back to
the camp at the Sydney Academy of Sport’s residences in Narrabeen, and had
“consensual sex” in the open bunk-style accommodation.

Apparently a number of referees looked on, and a second referee was
said to be “intimately involved” (the mind boggles) according to a witness.

I wonder if the young lady, or the young gentlemen ref, charged a
“viewing fee”?

“It was a one night stand”, said one of the refs, who asked not be
identified.

But it gets better. The source said “She even came back the next day
asking for the same gentleman”. That guy deserves a promotion, not a life time
ban!

And it has even been suggested that a number of the “observers” took
pictures of the “act” on their mobile phones!

Tawdry as it now doubt all was…but deserving of two life time bans?

If that’s the penalty for a consensual sex romp involving referees
(with the lady coming back the next day asking for seconds), then what will the
NRL players who may transgress in the future – the death penalty?

Given that the story has made the front page of today’s SMH, David
Gallop and the NRL hierarchy will be furious. The League has put a lot of
effort into encouraging a responsible approach to relations with women, and
encouraging responsible drinking, among young players.

They obviously should have included “young referees” as well!

It comes on the same day it was revealed that a police investigation
into a rape claim against a first grade AFL player was “bungled” in highly
suspicious circumstances.

It certainly won’t please Gallop who has given a long interview talking
up the 2005 season…and doing so with some justification.

There is every sign the 2005 season will be a highly competitive one,
though in the basis of the performance of the injury ridden Bulldogs in Leeds
last weekend, they must start competition favourites again.

The NRL has been genuine
in seeking to address some of the problems that undermined the game in
2004…especially appalling off field behaviour by a small minority of players.

And the administrators are, at long last, realising that it’s the
game’s up and coming players who deserve to be promoted…such as Sonny Bill
Williams, Karmichael Hunt, and Benji Williams. If the NRL keeps following that
line then the game will be the better for it.

The interviews I have seen and read involving these players, and other
young stars such as Billy Slater and Willie Tonga, are a credit to them, and
the game.

The more they are promoted as the modern “face” of rugby league the
better!

And the news is certainly not all bad in today’s sports sections. In a
unique venture, the Manly Sea Eagles, and the Essendon Bombers, yesterday held
a joint training session before playing a “hybrid” game of league/rules.

The Bombers players travelled to Sydney to join the sea Eagles for the
day, and, from all reports both sides took it very seriously…with the league
players particularly interested in the coaching tactics of Kevin Sheedy.

The venture was the brainchild of the Sea Eagles coach, Des Hasler, who
was not only an outstanding footballer, but is today one of the game’s most
constructive thinkers – and he deserves to succeed as a coach.

The joint session, though, ended on a “sour” note with the Australian
Sports Drug Agency “swooping” on the session and random drug tested 10 Sea Eagles
players!

Next week I will start looking at the prospects of the 15 NRL clubs for
the upcoming season…starting with those that give cause for concern. It will
hardly be a surprise I will be starting with South Sydney and Auckland!

Outside Centre can be contacted at outsidecentre10 @hotmail.com