Off the Wall

We should not be at all surprised that the best referee available has not been chosen to control the biggest international match of the season - this weekend's four nations final between Australia and Great Britain.

For that to happen parochialism would have to have been put aside - and the best interests of the game put first and foremost.

The game will be controlled by New Zealand's Leon Williamson. He controlled last weekend's game between the Kangaroos and the French. The less said about that the better.

Earlier this week, Shane Hayne was named "international referee of the year". He has been overlooked for the appointment, as has England's Steve Ganson.

Australia insisted on Hayne, England on Ganson. So the result was an inevitable compromise.

Whether we like it or not, who controls any game between Australia and Great Britain is important. Always has been, always will be.

Until the "neutral referee" nonsense was introduced, when England came to Australia for test matches, an Australian referee had control. When the Kangaroos went to England, the Poms nominee was in charge.

It worked for around 80 years - controversial at times, but it worked.

The neutral referee nonsense has not worked. And for the biggest international game of the year we will have a Kiwi referee who has never refereed in the NRL or UK Super League.

He is probably a genuine bloke, and will give his best. But why should such an important game not be controlled by the best available?

If we persist with this "neutral referee" nonsense the international game - limited as it is - will end up losing credibility the same way cricket has done.

I am looking forward to this weekend's final. We will be favourites, but Great Britain will have its tail up after defeating the more fancied Kiwis to make the final.

All we can hope for is that the referee - and his relative inexperience - won't have an adverse impact on the game.

I can still recall one of the first ever test matches I saw on black and white television - and the first ever test at Lang Park. Saturday 30 June 1962 Australia v Great Britain, won by the Poms 17-10, with the great Billy Boston scoring two tries...a win which gave the visitors the Ashes.

The referee? Queensland's Jack Casey, who was given the game ahead of Darcy Lawlor. As a ball boy I was on the line in games Jack Casey refereed in the Warwick league where he then officiated. I can recall as if it was yesterday the first match he officiated at after returning from the Ashes Test - the local crowd game him a standing ovation!

The fact that Shane Hayne, and Tony Archer, may never get the chance to officiate in an Ashes test is a shame - and a complete nonsense.

We can only hope this nonsense won't lead to what ought to be a titanic clash this weekend being mired in refereeing controversy because of the short sightedness of the game's administrators.

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