Off the Wall

If, as I expect, the NRL takes action against the Cowboys captain, Johnathan Thurston, then it might just be saving Thurston from a career threatening catastrophe.

The appalling behaviour by Thurston in the dying minutes of Saturday night's match between the Cowboys and the Sea Eagles cannot possibly be allowed to pass without some sanction by the NRL.

His tirade against referee Jason Robertson was as bad as I have seen in a long time. The fact that Robertson did nothing about it was equally appalling and indefensible.

Thurston, in just about every game he plays, is a ticking time bomb waiting for the fuse to be lit. And that must surely ring alarm bells with his coach, and the NRL.

And, week in week out, referees tolerate it. On Saturday night he was fronting the referees throughout the game questioning decisions, demanding answers. Even incidents that were beyond question were challenged.

But the final rant and tirade set an appalling example. Thurston, using language that should not be tolerated in a park football match yet a game shown, and heard, live on television and live on radio, demanded the referee tell him which official ruled the pass forward which denied the Cowboys a try in the last minute of the game.

He ranted and raved in the face of the "senior" referee, Robertson, and now there is an accusation he abused a tough judge as the players left the field.

This will all be looked at by the NRL today.

If they rein Thurston in, then they will be doing him, and the Cowboys, a favour. What we saw on Saturday night, and see week in week out, simply cannot be tolerated. He demands a high standard for himself, and his team mates, and while he is entitled to expect a high standard from referees, he cannot abuse and show total lack of respect for them.

But the NRL also needs to look hard at Robertson's performance.  He is supposed to be the third or fourth best referee in the NRL. If so, then heaven helps us because no one else can!

The standard of refereeing, and the performance of the "sideline officials", left much to be desired. The Cowboys were probably the victims of a couple of bad calls. But their own mistakes contributed to their loss.

The sad reality is that the game has two good referees - Tony Archer and Shane Hayne - three or four average whistleblowers, with the balance being just too unreliable in the high pressure environment that is the lot of the modern NRL premiership.

But none of that can excuse the increasing evidence that some players are treating referees with undisguised contempt. They might not respect the individual, but they have to respect the position.

Johnathan Thurston is unquestionably an outstanding player who sets the highest standards of play, and demands them from his team mates as well. He hates losing - and it clearly irks him that he is playing in an underperforming team.  He may well expect the same high standards from referees - but that is a matter beyond his control.

And he is totally out of control at present!

He has just been given a contract making him the game's highest paid player. Part of the contract includes mentoring work in indigenous communities, something he already does, I am told, very effectively and passionately.

What we saw, and heard, on Saturday night was a bad look - for Thurston, and the game.