Gutherson’s ref spray is yet another harmful example of NRL players not knowing the impact of disrespecting the officials


The on-field battle between Eels captain Clint Gutherson and referee Peter Gough has been a major talking point in the last 24 hours. This is just one incident of an official being treated disgustingly, the NRL is in the midst of an epidemic.

Gough was officiating his 72nd NRL match during the King’s Birthday clash between the Bulldogs and Eels. After a match-winning try by Canterbury, Clint Gutherson approached Peter Gough. The ref mic picked up the Eels captain telling Gough: “oh my God, that’s horrible, that is horrible”.

Gutherson was referring to what he thought should’ve been an obstruction against the Bulldogs during the play that resulted in a try.

Gough sternly replied, “regardless of your opinion as captain, do not speak to me like that when you ask me the answer.” Before adding, “that is not acceptable. You need to be better as a captain.” Gutherson continued to bother the experienced referee post-game.

The Gutherson-Gough incident is a perfect example of what shouldn’t be happening in rugby league. Before attacking someone, you should always be at least somewhat educated about what the procedure is, in this case, how the Bunker procedure works.

Once the call is awarded or sent upstairs, the decision is out of the on-ground referee’s control. It is in the hands of the Bunker review panel. By Gutherson taking his frustration out on Peter Gough, he is making himself look uneducated and is showing Gough unnecessary disrespect.

He shouldn’t disrespect anyone in the officiating area of rugby league, however, at least don’t take your annoyance out on the guy that has no control over what you’re blowing up about.

This type of disgusting behaviour isn’t only occurring in the NRL, but also happening in all levels below first grade as well. Junior rugby league referees are being criticised all the time, including children. Action was taken by the QRL on this issue, with the ‘If their socks are green, they are under 18’ campaign beginning this year. As a person who watches junior and senior club rugby league every weekend, this campaign has been a success.

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

Referees, who you could tell were under 18 in years before, commonly had slurs yelled at them and unconstructive criticism spat their way. But since the ‘green socks initiative’ began, there have been far fewer instances of disrespect displayed to officials below the age of 18. This is not the same case for adult officials though, as the disrespect from players, coaches, and crowd members towards them remains frequent. Players and/or fans telling the referee to “meet them in the car park” over something as insignificant as potentially incorrect calls in a junior rugby league game is pathetic.

The issue travels further on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and officials can’t even have a social media account as the death threats they’d receive would be tremendously high.

If referees made the same number of mistakes that the players make each game, then we simply wouldn’t have a functioning sport anymore. Officials are a key part to keeping the game alive and not having any would put the sport that we love so much to rest.

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