Referees are always a constant point of attention in all sports.
For rugby league officials in 2021, however, that scrutiny seemed to grow exponentially as more and more people begin to pay greater attention to the rules of the sport.
A number of incidents seemed to take precedent – not least the increasing clampdown on high and late tackles – but that often left the officials and the rules open to harsher criticism, with some decisions also made later by the disciplinary match review panel rankling supporters.
One former Super League official, Ian Smith, believes there is a key way in which both the referees and disciplinary panel can improve itself going forward.
“There were a lot of sinbins and sending offs last season, some have been for indirect contact to the head and with relatively minimal force in my opinion,” Smith told Serious About Rugby League.
“However with brain injuries and concussion being a very serious long term issue for player safety I can certainly understand why the referees and the Match Review Panel (MRP) have gone down that route.
“Going forward there needs to be a discussion with coaches, players, refs, MRP to look at how we can get the balance right between ensuring the game stays a full contact ‘brutal’ sport without games being reduced to 11-a-side and also looking after the players’ short/medium and long-term physical health.”
Smith himself retired from being a rugby league official at the end of the 2010 Super League season following over a decade in the sport.