Wrap: Harrigan, Bennett, Turner

Former leading whistleblower Bill Harrigan believes constant criticism of the NRL's referees will only hurt the game in the long run.

Harrigan says potential refs are being turned off taking up the whistle due to the unrelenting flak handed out to match officials. Two of the NRL's most experienced referees - Steve Clark and Paul Simpkins - have come in for a barrage of criticism following controversial rulings in last weekend's matches.

Harrigan says recruiting and retaining referees is one of the hardest jobs any sport faces.

Up north, Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett concedes his side will be in strife if it cops a hammering at the hands of the Bulldogs in tonight's NRL clash at Telstra Stadium.

The Broncos slipped out of the top four after going down to top of the table Melbourne last week to register their fifth straight loss. It doesn't get any easier for the Broncos in the coming weeks either with tonight's clash with the second-placed Bulldogs to be followed by a match against red-hot Parramatta.

Bennett says if Brisbane is to do anything in this year's competition, the next couple of weeks will be hugely important. The coach has dismissed concerns Darren Lockyer could be a late withdrawal after the skipper trained with his right hand heavily strapped.

Down south, the battle for Melbourne flyer Steve Turner has turned nasty with Gold Coast chief executive Michael Searle branding the Storm as bullies for trying to re-sign the winger after he had agreed to join the Titans.

Searle says his club will not back down and has already gained the initial support of NRL chief executive David Gallop. He labelled Melbourne's actions "reprehensible" and "disrespectful" and said the Titans were the "victims" in the tug-of-war. Gallop has spoken with both clubs about the issue with a decision expected to be handed down by the NRL in the coming days.

Gold Coast trumpeted the recruitment of Turner on a three-year deal in June before the 21-year-old re-signed with the Storm this week.

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