Referees lash ‘arrogant’ NRL as tensions escalate before Fair Work Commission hearing

“From the moment the game first shut down due to the pandemic, the referees have been approaching the league wanting to play their part and share the sacrifices to ensure the game’s viability moving forward.

“The league bosses were simply arrogant with this one ref decision. They were like a bull in a china shop. They ignored the unanimous view of a Project Apollo discussion panel held on 11 May, 2020. Representatives there included players, coaches and clubs, all of whom agreed that the two-referee model was superior. They were just ignored.”

Rising referee Belinda Sharpe’s opportunities could be limited with the move back to one on-field official.Credit:NRL Photos

The ARLC claims it carefully considered a submission the union put to it before pressing ahead with the change. However, the PRLMO claims a lack of consultation has resulted in a breach of the enterprise agreement in reverting to one whistle-blower. The union said it would abide by the arbitrator’s ruling and strike action won’t occur.

“That’s the unwavering commitment from us, the Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) to rugby league fans around the country,” the statement said.

“There has been some confusion and a great deal of distortion around the dispute we are having with the league’s bosses. This is not about us. It goes to the core of what the great game of rugby league is all about. It is about the safety of the players, as well as the best interests of the wider rugby league community. It is also about fair and real consultation.”


The union claims the safety of the players could be compromised if there is only one whistle-blower.

“On numerous occasions, the second referee has picked up potential causes of harm to players which were not detected at the same time by the other three match officials, nor the bunker,” the statement said.

“This includes tackles, holds and throws that can cause significant injury. Identifying and responding to these incidents promptly is crucial in ensuring player safety, and in complying with concussion protocols where a head injury is suspected. But this does not appear to concern the league’s bosses.

“More importantly for them is, ‘a more entertaining, free-flowing game’. (ARLC chairman, Peter V’landys 13 May). Yet they cannot explain how taking one referee off the field would achieve that.”

The case is one of the first involving the JobKeeper amendments and could have important consequences for other workplaces.

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