Coffs fullback Blaize Parter before he fell foul of referee Jason Townley (left) post-match.
Coffs fullback Blaize Parter before he fell foul of referee Jason Townley (left) post-match. Trevor Veale

Group 2 refs to react

A LINE has been drawn in the sand with Group 2 referees ordered to take immediate action this weekend to halt the escalating incidents of abuse being directed at them.

So incensed are the whistleblowers with what they are being forced to put up with, legal action against repeat offenders has even been foreshadowed.

Referees’ Association secretary, Bill Gibbons, has sent a communication to all clubs warning of an immediate crackdown on abuse from players on the field, club officials, runners and players (and coaches) seated on sideline benches ‘to stamp out this insidious aspect of rugby league.

In the opening three weeks of the season, the mouthing-off has reached appalling levels with two players charged following their sending-off after full time, a string of high profile players being sin-binned, and claims made about above-average penalty counts are ruining matches as referees battle to maintain order.

The referees have been directed to speak to ground managers at each venue, requesting an explanation of what strategies the club has in place for the protection of match officials, and what action he can expect when verbal abuse is noted from trainers, players or over-zealous spectators.

However, this directive may run into trouble at the first instance as some clubs have still not appointed recognisable ground managers almost two years after Country Rugby League ruled they do so.

“Players who use foul or abusive language towards a referee or touch judge will be automatically dismissed and charged with misconduct under the laws of the game,” Gibbons warned.

“Any club official, benched player, trainer, runner or first-aid officer who uses abusive language directed at a match official will be cited to Group 2 management via team sheets.

“A request will be made to Group 2 management that any spectator who can be identified and has used excessive verbal abuse towards a referee be banned from all Group 2 venues for 2010 and, if this fails, legal action will be commenced through this association’s honorary barrister to enforce such a ban.”

Gibbons indicated his members are fed up and the association makes no apologies for taking decisive action.

“Match officials who do not follow the directives are only making a rod for their own back,” he said.

“We, as a Referees Association, have a duty to nurture and encourage the younger members we have gained over the past weeks while making rugby league the envy of other codes in regard to match official abuse ... not vice versa as it is now.”

In the wake of recent outbursts, Gibbons has advised referees to leave the playing arena immediately after full time is signalled and to revert to the protocol of addressing players by their number, rather than by given or nicknames.

It comes after the association was contacted by one club official offering positive comments and suggestions which fit in with established policies.

“To call certain high profile players by their first name and others by number only invites the notion of favouritism and bias to other players,” Gibbons said.

Meanwhile, fortune may finally be smiling on the embattled Coffs Harbour club after Group 2’s judiciary ruled fullback Blaize Parter may resume playing after this weekend’s bye.

Parter was sent off after full time by referee Jason Townley in the wake of last Saturday’s loss to Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo and pleaded guilty to a category 1 charge of single sentence abuse.

He was suspended for two matches but the dispensation for an early plea and no previous convictions means no time will be served.

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