The National Rugby League will be doing a
disservice to the game if it does not take action against the Newcastle Knights’
Andrew Johns today.

Audio tapes have revealed Johns called
touch judge, Matt Cecchin, “a f-cking c-nt” late in the Knights unlucky 16-14
loss to the Manly Sea Eagles on Friday. He made matters worse in his regular Sunday Telegraph
column yesterday when he declared that not only would he not apologise, the
touch should also be apologising to him!

His coach, Michael Hagan, went a step
further by telling the media after the game: “I think he’d be entitled to swear
at him, wouldn’t you?” A report in today’s Daily Telegraph tips that both will survive any punishment when the NRL reviews the issue
today.

Just a week ago, the St George-Illawarra
Dragons coach, Nathan Brown, was fined $15,000 for saying “we’re getting judged
harsher than other teams” and “we get hammered by Clarkey (referee Steven
Clark)”. Consistency alone demands that there be some penalty on both Johns
and Hagan.

Mistakes by referees and touch judges are
testing the patience and tolerance of players, coaches and fans alike, but that
can never be an excuse for the kind of foul language Johns has indulged in of
late.

The NRL needs to consider another step that
will ensure referees enjoy, and earn, the respect of players. This nonsense
about referees calling players by their first name – even when they are about
to be sent off, or put on report, must end.

Every player wears a number on his back –
calling players by their number served the game just fine for about 95 years.
It’s time to bring it back. Just as it’s time to rein in Andrew Johns for his
own good and that of the game.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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