Entitled NRL players trying to stand over Kasey Badger are in for a rude shock


The lack of respect shown to Kasey Badger as she refereed Saturday’s Wests Tigers vs Canterbury Bulldogs game is unfortunately nothing new.

Nor is the reaction from the dark corners of the web that crawl out from under rocks whenever a female sporting official makes an error. 

Badger made a few errors at Accor Stadium and deserves the scrutiny and criticism that come with the job.

What she doesn’t deserve is to have players use their physical presence to get in her face or deliberately tower over her. No ref deserves this treatment. 

But there’s a rude shock coming the way of any player who thinks they can succeed with this tactic – Badger is made of tough stuff. 

You have to be, irrespective of gender, to be an NRL referee. Physically fit and mentally strong. 

Sit near the sidelines of any NRL game and listen to the abuse that the match officials cop from players and fans, and it’s shocking the amount of abuse that gets hurled their way by dickheads who think they know better. 

Those loudmouths, whether it’s a noted hot-head like Tigers prop David Klemmer, the abusive fans in the stands or the “courageous” commenters in the social media sewers who spew forth vitriol from the comfort of their online pseudonym, you’re wasting your time. 

Badger has fought through so many slings and arrows during her career that she has built up a thick skin to become impervious to the critics.

Aidan Sezer is placed on report by referee Kasey Badger. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

And she’s overcome setback after setback to achieve her dream of becoming an NRL referee. 

The whistleblowers are put through a testing process just to be fit enough to keep up with the play while also having a comprehensive knowledge of the many vagaries of the rulebook so that they can make the correct call under fatigue.

Badger was so dedicated to her goal of making it to the top that six years ago she had surgery to have part of a rib removed because of chronic pain in her right arm. 

She’s also soldiered on during matches despite a chronic ankle injury and and she had to miss time in the 2020 season due to a herniated disc in her back. 

After refereeing in the men’s tournament at the World Cup in 2022 she made her NRL debut last season and is again part of the senior squad this year.

Every ref makes errors in every game they officiate in. Just like every player and every coach. 

They all have a high threshold of tolerance for the abuse they cop but just because they are resilient, doesn’t mean it’s open slather for cowards to rain down upon them with abuse. 

Badger stuffed up by not sending Aiden Sezer off after his horrendous hip drop tackle on Josh Curran. At a bare minimum it should have been a sin bin and the fact that he is now banned for the next four games shows how serious it was and how serious the damage could have been to his opponent’s leg.

But she was not alone in making that call. It was an officiating issue, an error but one that sadly happens way too often in the NRL.

It’s hard to comprehend how players are routinely judged by the match review committee in their dispassionate post-game analysis to have committed foul play on the field that is result in bans of multiple weeks but if a referee sits a player down for 10 minutes or, heaven forbid, send them off then some fans and media members act like the whistleblower has egregiously stepped out of line.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley spoke sense on Monday when he said the furore over the way some of the Tigers and Bulldogs players treated Badger was not a gender issue but all about respect for referees in general.

Well, there’s an easy way for the referees to get respect – come down hard on players who step out of line. 

Badger, like all referees entering the top grade, need a kill to show they’re someone not to be messed with. 

If she had pointed Sezer to the sheds for his grubby tackle, some Tigers fans would have been up in arms but the majority of NRL supporters would have applauded the move. 

Bit of a scuffle and a stray head-butt for your Saturday afternoon at Homebush.

???? Watch #NRLBulldogsTigers on ch.502 or stream on Kayo: https://t.co/B1ijnGXtqA
BLOG https://t.co/Aq7oF1ScUt
???? MATCH CENTRE https://t.co/ZyZ8BJdO8R pic.twitter.com/hZ7EjP8Mm5

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) May 4, 2024

Annesley also said Klemmer was lucky not to be sent off altogether in the 74th minute after he was sin-binned for dissent and then joined in a melee involving several players from each side.

He then tried the “who me?” response to Badger after she told him to get off the field a second time.  

This is the same David Klemmer who was involved in a similar incident no less than nine years ago on the same ground when he yelled in the face of referee Gerard Sutton as he and Canterbury captain James Graham blew up about a late penalty against them.

He hasn’t learnt much between then and now. At least Klemmer got a three-game ban back then. This time around he had the option of a two-game ban or paying a fine of $3000.

To most people, that is a lot of money. For a former NSW and Australian representative on a lucrative deal which was carried over and extended as part of the deal to get him from Newcastle, it’s not even close to half his weekly wage.

Do you reckon the message has sunk in this time? 

The NRL overhauled its judiciary process just before the start of last season to supposedly make it simpler and prevent players getting bans for low-grade offences, particularly repeat offenders. 

But it has created an atmosphere where players know they will only get a hefty suspension if they really step out of line. 

David Klemmer. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It is a system which meant Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans, who had been charged once previously in 350 matches at the top level, was treated the same as Rabbitohs winger Taane Milne, who had been in trouble with the judiciary five times in the space of 20 months.

No discounts for DCE and no extra weighting placed on Milne for his latest unsavoury incident, diving at the legs of Cameron Munster when he was already tackled with a clear intent to injure him.

They will never admit it publicly but the players are happy with the current system because it is much more lenient than previous judiciary set-ups. 

And that leads to a sense of entitlement where they think it’s OK to get in the face of a referee. 

Badger and the rest of the refereeing cohort of that matter have the power to bring the players into line by using that oft-forgotten device known as the rulebook. 

But they need the NRL executives, match review committee and judiciary ready to back them up to ensure that refs and the rules are respected.

Magic Round is coming up – perhaps the players need another crackdown on foul play to remind them that they need to play by the rules.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.