Referee's report - Round 23

The race for refereeing positions in this year?s Finals Series has heated up with referee Gavin Badger being relegated back to Premier League this weekend. Gavin, who refereed in the Warriors? victory over the Cowboys on Saturday, has been told that he made the right decision in sending off North Queensland?s Luke O?Donnell off. He however did make some costly errors throughout the match, which was the reason for his demotion.

Steve Clark, although coming under fire for not penalising Canberra in golden point on Sunday, has been given the match of the round between the Bulldogs and Broncos on Friday night. The two sides met earlier this season at Suncorp Stadium where the Broncos were a class above the Bulldogs running out big winners 25-6. The referee that night was Steve Clark.

Jason Robinson, who of late has been officiating in lower ranked matches, has been thrown in the deep end this weekend when he will be in charge of the Panthers and Sharks encounter at Toyota Park in Cronulla. The loser of the match is out of reach of the top eight while the winner is still an outside chance of breaking in.

Sean Hampstead will be in Townsville on Saturday night as the Cowboys look to break their losing streak against the Knights. The two sides met in round six of this season in what could be described as the match of the season to date with a Matt Bowen chip and chase deciding the match with just five minutes to play. The referee back in that match Paul Simpkins came off deep in to the first half with a calf complaint where Tony De Las Heras came on for his debut.

Tony Archer is the referee when the Storm are at home to the Warriors on Saturday night in Melbourne. Matt Cecchin, who was sworn at by Andrew Johns on Friday night, will be touch-judging in this match. Hopefully there won?t be any problems with Cooper Cronk and Grant Rovelli for him!

Paul Simpkins will be at Aussie Stadium on Sunday as the Roosters are at home to the Eels. Although in many peoples? eyes he made a poor mistake in Newcastle on Friday night, referees? boss Robert Finch said he made the right decision. Simpkins is currently ranked number two behind Steve Clark with just three rounds before the finals.

Shayne Hayne is continuing his charge for a finals appearance this year as he will be in charge of the Dragons and Tigers at Kogarah on Sunday afternoon. The match will be one of the ?retro? 60s week commemorative games with the Tigers to wear their Balmain heritage jersey. Hayne refereed these two clubs last year at OKI Jubilee Stadium where the Tigers ran out winners in an upset 32-24.

Russell Smith returns to the NRL this weekend for the outgoing Gavin Badger for the match between South Sydney and Manly at Brookvale Oval. It will be the first match back in First Grade for Russell since round 17 when he was in Canberra when the Eels travelled there and earned the two points against the Raiders. Since then he has been doing lowly ranked Premier League matches.