SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Craig Bellamy, Coach of the Storm talks during the post match press conference after the round four NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at Southern Cross Group Stadium on March 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Craig Bellamy and his side will be looking to defend their premiership in 2021 and have looked to a former general manager of elite officiating to help do so.

Former NRL referees boss Bernard Sutton is set to join the Melbourne Storm on a consultancy basis, aiming to help the reigning premiers limit their penalty count and adapt to the league’s latest rule changes, per Fox Sports.

Melbourne boss Frank Ponissi said Sutton will be a vital asset to the club’s upcoming campaign, bringing an unparalleled level of experience in the officiating field.

“It will be a positive for our club to tap into Bernard’s expertise and experience to have him available to help us continue to improve our on-field discipline,” Ponissi.

“We are always looking at those one percenters and what we can do to make ourselves better.

“Reducing the number of penalties we concede is one area we have targeted for improvement as is adapting to the new laws to be introduced in 2021.

“Bernard will working directly with our coaches in a role that’s very similar that we had another ex-NRL referee Adam Devcich fill with us in 2019.

“He won’t be at training but he’ll be available remotely for Craig and our assistant coaches to use for guidance and advice as the season progresses.”


  1. Here’s my take on the fallacy of refereeing in the NRL – and its for as long as I can remember (about 30 years of rugby league).

    80% of penalties and tackle resets are very difficult to identify what specifically was so different in that play than to every other play in the game. It seems often that the referees will let infringements run until they get a ‘vibe’ and blow a penalty. This means there might be a 200 infringements in a game and the refs only penalise maybe 10. This is obviously problematic, but is shown to be more ridiculous due to the fact that 80% of these penalties happen only in the first 20 minutes. That in itself must be wrong as when players are fatigued they are going to infringe more – at the end of the game, not the start.

    For those of you wondering why your team gets 3 penalties against them in the first 10 minutes every game – its not because your team was infringing more than the other side. Its because the refs had a mid week meeting and discussed that your team is a big infringer and you should penalise them early to stop it. Again I’ll highlight that both teams are infringing but one is getting hammered early on and the other is not. Typically the teams getting penalised early are the ‘not haves’ in the comp – Tigers, Titans, Warriors, Manly, Knights, Dogs, Raiders. It never happens to golden teams like Storm, Roosters, Broncos.

    As so often happens the team that doesnt get penalised gets out to a very big lead. That leads to a great opportunity to even up the penalty count. Evening out penalty counts is fundamentally wrong and is a weakness in the character of the ref, the refereeing group and the NRL. Penalties should be given on the basis of infringements only.

    So now Bellamy has a sit down with the refs to better understand how not to get penalised. Its purely politics designed to leverage a better outcome under the above scenario – if not NRL propaganda. He knows his team will be wrestling regardless because ultimately the refs wont stop it. The penalties will ultimately be evened out and infringement techniques will win out over compliance with the rules when it comes to game results.

    Case and point – In 2013 the Roosters were the most penalised team in the competition for offside. One would think that would be totally debilitating – but they won the premiership – because they did it consistently and were only penalised probably 5% of the time that they were offside and they were probably offside 50% of the time. Its easy to defend your line for a lot of sets when you are consistently able to shut down the ball. A few extra early penalties or on your line are very manageable in the grand scheme.

    Anyway back to the main topic, I personally think unless there is a genuine crack down in the sport on ruck infringements this will never change. And as we’ve seen in the past crackdowns only last for the first 5 rounds. Which is why we see Roosters and Melbourne regularly having poor starts to the season and then coming home strong at the end.

    It certainly fits the NRL’s narrative that they are addressing public concerns about systematic infringements – despite a complete lack of commitment to seeing enforcement through to the end, particularly where the storm are concerned.

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