The appointment of Tim Mander
to referee Sunday night’s NRL grand final goes a long way to rectifying the
appalling injustice done to him (again) during the State of Origin
series.

It is accepted that the grand final appointment is the
highest honour a referee can gain but State of Origin does not rate far
behind it. And even though Mander has been given the
last two grand finals, he has NEVER controlled a State of Origin
match!

In a season in
which our refereeing ranks hardly covered themselves in glory, Mander has been the most consistent – not always right, but
consistent, and largely unobtrusive. Like it or not, the rules of rugby league give the
referee much more say in the running of the game, and much more discretion, than
referees and umpires in other football codes.

That is why the choice of the referee for big matches,
such as the grand final, is important. And after Paul Simpkins absolutely
“fluffed it” a couple of weeks back, it was a one horse race for the prize
appointment for 2005. Mander
consistently wins all the players polls – not that that should be a real guide –
but at least he has the respect of the players and his refereeing style of
letting the play flow as much as possible will suit both the Tigers and the
Cowboys in Sunday night.

He is an interesting character. This week he revealed
that he turned to Christianity after being troubled with alcohol and gambling
problems when he was young, including his last two years at
school. Today he is Chairman of the Scripture Union of
Queensland, and widely respected in the community, though not really the pin
up boy of Broncos fans!

Importantly, both sides will get a fair go on Sunday
night. And we can ask for no more than that.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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