Brad Fittler has slammed the referees’ union for taking the NRL to the Fair Work Commission for the decision to go back to one whistleblower.
The NRL remain in mediation with the Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) over the decision, with conciliation adjourned until Tuesday.
Both sides are confident the issue will be resolved before the competition restarts on May 28, with the NRL guaranteeing 22 full-time referees will be employed beyond this year.
But Fittler claimed the issue was the latest in a string of examples of officials having too much power in the game.
“It is ridiculous what the referees are trying to pull,” the NSW State of Origin coach told Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.
“What’s happened over the last 10 years, the refs have been put on this level of power. I could never understand why.
“The referees love the game, they get in there and do a great job but outside that, that’s where it had to stop.
“For them to be protesting and going to hold the game up … well get a whole heap of other referees.”
The referees’ union have claimed their agreement with the NRL is based on a two-referee, two-touch-judge model.
They also claim the NRL did not properly consult them before making the change back to one referee.
In the 21-page enterprise agreement sighted by AAP, there is no written mention of the need to stay with two referees.
It does state that referees must be consulted on the introduction of major changes, but that consultation can take place after making a definite decision.
The document is signed by the NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley and PRLMO chair Silvio Del Vecchio.
The two-referee model was introduced by the NRL at the end of 2008 in a bid to eliminate the wrestle and keep up with the pace of the game.
However the NRL has argued the system has not worked to eradicate wrestling issues.
Of the current crop of NRL referees, just three officiated in the NRL prior to 2009 when the system was brought in.
Most of the top officials have controlled international games, with still operate with just one whistleblower, while reserve grade also uses the one-referee model.
“You’ve got to remember before coming to the NRL they were in a system where it was one referee,” Fittler said.
“So their whole trade was learned with one referee, learning the flow of the game through refereeing kids through A-grade.
“It’s just ridiculous (for referees) to hold up the game.”