Off the Wall

Many readers will be able to relate to the era when what was said on the field stayed on the field - and not just in rugby league.

That era is long over - and whatever else is said about Billy Slater's comments to the Knights Cory Paterson, Slater brought the attention on himself by seemingly forgetting the simple reality that just about everything said on the field is picked up by modern communication devices.

And if he did not forget it he is a very foolish, if experienced, player!

I would love us to return to the era that when was said on the field stays on the field full stop. But that is not going to happen and players need to adjust to it.

We have had racial vilification claims, claims about players sledging the morality of the wives and partners of players - in rugby league and other codes, as well as cricket where sledging has been part of the history of the game.

The level of sledging in rugby league is no doubt significantly lower than it used to be - and the language is less, shall we say, "confronting" that it once was.

Slater has apologised to Cory Paterson, and the matter will probably go no further. But the damage has been done, and some of it will stick. Fairly or unfairly!

Meanwhile a referee has had his reputation put through the cleaners because what referees say on the field is heard just as clearly - if not more clearly - than what players say!

And you have to think that referee Brett Suttor has been sailing close to the wind for some time.

He is one of those referees I put in the pedantic category - but his comments relating to Jarryd Hayne were unnecessary, and undesirable, to say the least.

The quick response from his more experienced colleague, Shane Hayne, probably said it all. But it does raise another issue about referees today.

They talk far too much during the game - some more than most, but all more than they need to.

The best referees I have seen said little on the field - they let the whistle do the talking for them...and without exception they were known for low penalty counts.

This season we are seeing players increasingly irritated with referees. Sometimes they are justified, sometimes they are not...but increasingly I find myself sharing their frustration.

There are any number of reasons why - some current, some historic. Pedantic rulings, and some quite glaring errors, have increased frustrations this year.

But the practice of referees calling players by their first names really ought to be reviewed.

I don't think it contributes to on field discipline.....we would be better of going back to when players were generally called by their numbers or position.

The players need to respect referees - and referees have to be mindful of the need to earn that respect.

It is a delicate balance...and stopping referees calling players by their first name all the time might help tip the balance back to where it ought to be. It is out of kilter at present. The NRL needs to work with the clubs to get the balance right!

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