The process by which the referees for the 2005 State of Origin series have been chosen is an absolute insult to rugby league’s greatest asset, and a condemnation of the way the game is being administered today.
The NSW and Queensland leagues go to great lengths to ensure the best players are chosen to represent the Blues and the Maroons. And so they should. It’s serious business for rugby league and the envy of other codes.
But when it comes to the selection of the man who can influence the outcome of an Origin game, and even a series, the process has become a total farce. The controlling bodies of the State of Origin – the NSWRL and the QRL – each nominate a referee, which ultimately leads to an unsatisfactory compromise.
Before Origin One, NSW nominated Tim Mander (who happens to be a Queenslander). Queensland nominated Russell Smith (who happens to be from England). Because they couldn’t agree, Paul Simpkins was chosen instead.
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We now know that the referee for Origin Two next week, Steven Clark, was chosen by the same disgraceful process. NSW again nominated Tim Mander, Queensland changed horses (and not before time) and nominated Paul Simpkins. But again they couldn’t agree, so yet another compromise emerged in the form of Steven Clark.
Now when he’s in form, Clark is a good referee and is generally well regarded by players. But if he is the best, why wasn’t he the first choice of either NSW or Qld? The answer is rugby league politics at its very worst.