Billy Slater hits out at Kasey Badger criticism as NRL makes telling move amid referee controversy

The NRL has backed in Kasey Badger, retaining the referee for this weekend's matches despite heavy scrutiny in round nine.

NRL legend Billy Slater has taken aim at "coward" fans who abused referee Kasey Badger after round nine's clash between the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs. The Maroons coach called out the keyboard warriors who slammed the rookie ref online and told them to go do the job themselves if they think they could do better than Badger.

Badger was involved in several heated conversations with players on Saturday and both their actions and the controversial calls Badger made have come under the microscope. The ref's performance drew the ire of fans following the ill-tempered match between Canterbury and Wests Tigers that led to two players being put in the sin-bin and the NRL dishing out $11,800 in fines.

Pictured left Billy Slater and right Kasey Badger
The NRL has backed in Kasey Badger, retaining the referee for this weekend's matches despite heavy scrutiny in round nine. Image: Getty

Badger has made headlines after multiple rounds in 2024. Following the Canberra-Gold Coast clash last month, her officiating was slammed by fans and Titans coach Des Hasler. But the NRL has once again shown faith in Badger, naming her as referee for round 10 action.

She will take charge of Sunday’s match between the Sydney Roosters and Warriors at Allianz Stadium, with her appointment coming a day after both the NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and football boss Graham Annesley warned players and coaches that criticism of referees will be dealt with harshly. And Slater says enough is enough and the abuse of referees, in particular Badger, must stop.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 04: Referee, Kasey Badger speaks with John Bateman of the Tigers during the round nine NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Wests Tigers at Accor Stadium, on May 04, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Kasey Badger was in the middle of several heated conversations with players on Saturday, sending two players to the sin bin,

"If you think you can do a better job, go and do it. Go and put your hand up to be a referee," he told the Billy Slater podcast. "Don’t go on social media and be a coward and abuse someone.

"If you think you can do better than the person you’re having a go at, go and put the boots on, grab a whistle … you’ve got no right to abuse anyone. The referees do a fantastic job, we need them. If we don’t have referees we don’t have a game. I see that as a coward act."

Annesley says the issue of referee abuse is not 'gender-specific' and believes NRL fans and players need to be more accepting that errors are "part of the game". "Even when referees do make mistakes they don’t make them because of their gender," he said on Monday.


"They make mistakes because they are human. We somehow have this expectation that NRL referees get everything right. They can’t get it all right to everyone’s satisfaction. There needs to be some degree of acceptance to that.

"I do address my remarks today to coaches, players, club officials … whether they are criticising the commission, or the CEO, or a referee, or the bunker, we need to have a better level of tolerance in our game for what are human errors."

with agencies