NRL head of football Graham Annesley has refused to rule out Ashley Klein from taking charge of a preliminary final match this weekend after he came under scrutiny for his performance in the Storm's victory over the Roosters. Klein was the centre of attention after the Storm defeated the Roosters 18-13 in a thriller last Friday night when he missed Harry Grant's knock-on for the Storm.
Klein allowed play to continue despite having a perfect view of Grant knocking the ball on. The referee then gave the Storm a penalty not long after, which they used to march downfield and score via Marion Seve.
And the drama didn't stop at the knock on. Storm coach Craig Bellamy couldn't believe his side weren't awarded a penalty in the dying stages when Grant was hit in the face with a high shot. Klein initially missed the high contact, and the Bunker also failed to intervene despite Grant staying down in an attempt to win a penalty.
With the Roosters up 13-12 at the time, a penalty would have given the Storm a shot at goal to make it 14-13. Luckily for Bellamy's men they scored not long after when Will Warbrick latched onto a cross-field kick from Cameron Munster.
Klein has come under scrutiny for the errors, which Annesley admitted on Saturday were wrong. However, while Klein hasn't been guaranteed a position as a referee in the two preliminary finals matches, he also hasn't been ruled.
Annesley said the NRL would review statistics and performances from across the whole year, not just the last round, before deciding if the 2022 grand final referee will have another chance to officiate in 2023.
"That decision hasn't been made yet" Annesley said. "We've spent this morning reviewing both games.
"We'll review all the information on match officials throughout the year and across the weekend. We look at the statistics around all their matches, in terms of enforcement of certain parts of the game.
"We will then make a decision we think is appropriate, given the significance of the games and making sure that we've got referees on the field that are the best available officials to perform in those matches."
Referring appointments for the two preliminary finals will be made on Tuesday. Annesley backed Klein as one of the best in the game and said all referees make mistakes. Klein apologised to Roosters captain James Tedesco after the incident and Annesley also praised Roosters coach Trent Robinson for taking a measured approach to the mistake.
“He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t have something in the back of his mind about an error he knew he had made,” Annesley added. “Referees are trained over a long period of time to just put that behind them and keep refereeing the game because what they have to be careful of is if they start thinking about things that have happened previously then they’re not concentrating on what’s happening in front of them.
“He’s one of our most experienced referees. He took us right through Origin, he’s refereed grand finals, he’s refereed hundreds of NRL games and he’s refereed dozens of finals so he’s not an inexperienced referee.”
NRL bunker comes under fire after Harry Grant incident
Many fans were also surprised when the bunker didn't intervene and hand the Storm a penalty when Grant was clearly tackled-high in the final moments of the game. However, Annesley defended the bunker's decision to stay out of it.
After a rule change last year, the bunker can only intervene and tell a referee to blow for a penalty if the incident was deemed a reportable offence. And Annesley said the precedent had been set throughout the year.
"It was almost becoming farcical with players staying down, (last year)" Annesley said. "When they (the bunker) reviewed this decision, they couldn't say to the referee that it was a high hit and it should have been penalised because it would have been contrary to what we've done all season."
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