NRL Rd 5 - Sharks v Wests Tigers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Referee Adam Gee gestures during the round five NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Wests Tigers at PointsBet Stadium, on April 10, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Thursday's Round 12 opener at Suncorp Stadium won't go down in the memory bank as a great game, but it was a moment of controversy during the second half which had fans talking afterwards, and will leave the NRL needing to defend itself in the coming days.

As the Broncos desperately attempted to fight their way back into the game - which they ultimately lost to the Panthers by 15 points to 4 - a Kotoni Staggs try was sent to the bunker after a dodgy looking challenge in the air which involved Queensland Origin hopeful Reece Walsh.

On review, the bunker - with leading official Ashley Klein watching over the match in the first of three involvements this weekend - were going to let the try be allowed.

Despite Walsh appearing to not challenge for the ball and take out Tryone Peachey, Klein found Walsh to be contesting the ball.

"Reece Walsh is contesting the ball. We are playing on at this stage," Klein said.

That was met by conversation into the microphone by referee Adam Gee, with an unnamed player then evidently yelling "stop" which could be heard on Gee's microphone, who responded that he needed to be able to hear Klein.

Gee then told Klein he wasn't comfortable with awarding a try.

"It doesn't look right to me Ash," Gee said.

Klein then had another look at the challenge in the air between Walsh and Penrith defender Peachey.

"Just having [another] look at Reece Walsh to see if he intervenes or not," Klein then replied.

After more review, the try was ultimately reversed.

"Reece Walsh always had eyes for Tyrone Peachey and takes him out, removing his opportunity to play at the ball," Klein concluded.

SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12: Reece Walsh of the Broncos in action during the NRL Trial Match between the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Gee then had to settle the players on-field, while a player was clearly overhead on the referees microphone labelling it a "bad precedent".

And it's hard to agree with the idea that a referee from ground level watching a single big screen in the grandstand should have any say in a decision he sends to the bunker, where they have access to every TV camera at the same time on multiple screens with a technical director assisting the various feeds and time to slow the decision-making process down.

A dangerous precedent is absolutely what the decision in the Brisbane and Penrith game, and the NRL must take a stand immediately - the bottom line is that the game is either using technology or it isn't, but the on-field referee can't be allowed to have the best of both worlds.

Otherwise, what is the point of appointing bunker officials?

The sport might as well simply plant a TV screen on the sideline for the referee to make his own decision without the help of an official in the bunker to review the footage on multiple cameras and as many times as they'd like.

Ultimately, Gee's involvement in the decision wound up with the right decision being arrived at, but the process was wrong, and if this is allowed to become the new precedent, there will be issues on far tighter decisions moving forward.

While the NRL must comment on why an on-field referee became involved in a bunker decision, it's just the latest in a long line of decisions that ultimately would have been wrong from an NRL official in the bunker.

The Broncos were involved in a game with plenty of them last week against the Melbourne Storm, and ultimately, Todd Smith and Gerard Sutton both paid for it, the former losing his job with a whistle this weekend, and the later losing his job in the video review chair.

They are both still on-field in a capacity this weekend, such is the shortage of referees on the NRL panel (another story for another day), but there may well be now pressure on Klein's spot next weekend.

Klein was handed an extra game in the bunker this weekend and still has two involvements - one on-field and one off-field - to play out over the remainder of Round 12, but based on almost getting a very easy decision wrong last night, and leaving the NRL with egg on its face as an on-field official came to the rescue, there will be an argument for his axing next weekend.

Whichever way the NRL lean on this issue, they must make a definitive statement, likely in Graham Annesley's weekly footy briefing on Monday.

And whichever way they go, it'll mean precedent moving forward when the majority disagree with the bunker, as we have seen time and time again this season, has been set.


  1. ” it’s hard to disagree with the idea that a referee from ground level watching a single big screen in the grandstand should have any say in a decision he sends to the bunker,…”

    Hmm I think that sentence needs a “NOT” in it…..

    But on a separate matter, can anyone tell me if the referees/bunker boys are on a fixed salary or are they paid by the game? If it’s “pay per game” then Ashley Klein’s earnings this year must be up there with DCE and Ponga !

Comments are closed.