Opinion: Do we blame the referees too much in rugby league?

Our junior reporter Josh McAllister, with us for five weeks as part of his sports journalism studies at the University of Chester, looks at the fall out of last night’s cup battle.

Yesterday’s opening sixth round Challenge Cup tie between Featherstone Rovers and Hull FC started like any other, with the Super League side opening the scoring.

The Airlie Birds went on to dominate the game, but it was what happened in the second half that made this fixture such a controversial, hot topic of discussion.

On the 47th minute, Hull fullback Jamie Shaul was hammered early by Misi Taulapapa as he waited for the ball from a kick, which was deemed a ‘mis-timed tackle’ by the referee, with just a penalty awarded.

The fixture soon turned sour, with seven cards to follow, including a red for winger Bureta Faraimo for a dangerous tackle.

This sparked a lot of heated discussion on Twitter, which leaves me to ask; Do we blame the referees to much in our great sport of rugby league?

Granted, if the referee had shown a card for the first incident on Shaul, the game may have not gone the way it did. But, that never happened and so we’ll never know.

A lot of fans, including journalists, praised the game. As a fan myself writing this opinion column, I am all for the brawl. I remember the brawl between St Helens and Wigan Warriors at the Magic Weekend in 2012. I would have been 14 at the time, and that fight has stayed with me since. It brings passion, will and a fight for the cause. The best thing? They all shook hands at the end of the game, leaving it on the field.

Gareth Hock started the spark at the scrum in 2012, and he wasn’t far from any of the action in last night’s fixture. However, the antics had me questioning if we, the fans, like to point the finger at the man in the middle too easily.

Being a referee in any sports is no easy job, no doubt affecting your life away from the game, too. Sometimes, yes, they get it wrong. And yes, if so they will be talked about. But the players on the field should bear some responsibility too.

I tweeted a few of my opinions, receiving a lot of feedback and anger towards the referee, defending the players.

One man that caught my attention is Jake Connor, who, admittedly, knows how to win a game and received man of the match for his contribution to his side’s victory. He has been a perfect example of how to wind up an opposition in the 2018 campaign, but both sides must be slightly embarrassed after that performance.

Hull FC ended with nine players on the field – which had some people questioning whether they could have been kicked out the competition had there been any further cards, apparently not.

The referee may have been ‘card-happy’ towards the end of the fixture, but you couldn’t say that his decisions weren’t justified. The players must take responsibility for this, and not leave the blame to the officials.

Lee Radford’s post-match apology is enough evidence for me that he too believes the sides were in control of their actions. Yes, the officials could have, and probably should have, handled it better. But the players must take responsibility for that game.

To end on a light-note, the attention it has caught on social media only raises the profile of our magnificent sport. Here’s to the next seven games of Challenge Cup fixtures this weekend.

You can follow Josh on Twitter @JoshMcSport and @RLLatest


  1. I don’t like bagging refs but if he had sin binned the late tackle on Jamie Shaul,would the game got out of hand as it did?

  2. The ref v featherstone bottled a clear sending off in the first half which then resulted in the chaos as the game went on.Ben Thaler showed how to be a top referee with his 1st class performance v a terrible Toronto outfit shame on us all if the idiots at the top let them in super league

  3. The standard of refereeing, is rubbish and does our game no good what so ever , and they can’t make a decision without going to the video ref every time and to be really honest someone please stuff a rag in Cummings gob , I really don’t like his consistent dribble

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.