The advertising slogan “When Only The Best Will Do” certainly does not
apply to the selection of the referees for rugby league’s State of Origin
series. Sometimes it’s the third or the second best, but heaven forbid the most
demanding task for any referee should actually go to the best referee!

Tomorrow
night, the destiny of rugby league’s showcase event will be in the
hands, or the whistle, of Paul Simpkins, who controlled Origin One. But
Ricky Stuart thought he did a terrible job, so Steven Clark got
Origin Two. And the Maroons coach and supporters thought he did a
terrible job. Simpkins is probably the second best whistleblower in the
NRL, and
Clark is probably the third best.

And how about the best referee? Most commentators agree that Tim
Mander
is the best referee in the NRL. He controlled the grand final, and was
selected
for the international series in England and France at the end of the
season. Right throughout this season he has controlled either the
number one or
number two match each weekend. But he has not got a look in during the
Origin series. Why?

We know that the QRL has effectively “blackballed” Mander, even though
he is a Queenslander. And why? Apparently his “style” of refereeing
does not suit the
Maroons. He insists on a full ten metres, or more, in the play the
ball. The fact that when it comes to the respect of players he is their
first
choice counts for nought.

This is nonsense.
And it is a direct consequence of the game persisting
with divided leadership and authority. We have the NRL, the ARL, NSWRL
and QRL. I don’t always agree with the way David Gallop, or the
NRL, run the premiership, but the sooner the NRL gets total control of
the game
the better.

Yesterday I urged officials to take firm action over the racial slur
against Dean Widders by the Souths Rabbitohs captain, Bryan Fletcher.
To the club’s great credit, the Rabbitohs officials measured up.
Fletcher has been fined, suspended, and forced into a public apology
and an
on-going commitment to contribute to the excellent work Dean Widders is
doing
in indigenous communities.

The apology from Fletcher, and its unqualified acceptance by Widders,
helped repair yesterday’s very damaging headlines. Well done, Souths!

And on an even more positive note. Nine’s live telecast of the Sea
Eagles v Tigers game on Friday night was a ratings winner in Sydney, and rated
well in Brisbane. The sooner the “Friday night live” match comes in permanently the
better.

Peter Fray

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