One of the NRL’s most decorated whistleblowers has emerged as a significant supporter of a return to one referee, saying the two-ref system was “based on a false premise”.
Tim Mander, now Queensland’s deputy opposition leader, controlled 291 first-grade games including the 2004 and 2005 grand finals and has an ominous word of warning for today’s lot threatening the NRL’s May 28 restart.
“What I’ve learnt in my new game in the world of politics is that you need to know what public sentiment is and you need to be acutely aware of that and be able to respond to it. So they’re on very delicate ground,” Mander told 2GB radio.
“And they need to be very, very careful because you don’t have enormous amounts of sympathy for referees anyhow so you don’t want to add to that at all.
Mander is fully supportive of one on-field official.
“I never really agreed with going to two referees. It was based on a false premise,” he said.
“And that premise was that referees got fatigued and therefore that effected their decision-making ability and I don’t think there were any statistics or any data that supported that whatsoever and I don’t think two referees added anything to that.
“In fact, you could argue that it’s caused confusion.”
The Fair Work Commission will resolve the dispute between the referees’ union after peace talks failed on Tuesday and Mander is unsure how it will play out.
“I’m not in the inner sanctum and I suppose where I have some sympathy for the referees is that the vibe I’m getting is the vibe that’s been there for decades in regards to referees and that they’re treated like a necessary evil and as a afterthought by the administration,” he said.
“So I would have liked to have thought that the rugby league administration would have consulted with the referees, would have sought their opinion then would make sure it was communicated clearly.
“I suspect that the main reason that the referees responded the way that they are is that they may feel as though they haven’t been treated with respect.
“So all I’m saying is that I would just ask that the rugby league treats them with respect, communicates with them clearly, lets them know how valued they are.
“In saying all that, at the moment what we’ve got to do is look at the good of the game and we all want rugby league to be back and the last thing we want is anybody jeopardising that.
“In this current situation where there have been tens of thousands of people out of work, anybody who’s got a job – and I’m in this category – we are incredibly grateful that we have got work and we shouldn’t be greedy at all.”