'Paralysis by analysis': League greats weigh into refs crisis

Steve Zemek

Rugby league greats Andrew Johns and Peter Sterling have accused the NRL of over coaching their whistleblowers as the game's refereeing crisis hit rock bottom over the weekend.

NRL referees boss Bernard Sutton has conceded his men got two crucial calls wrong which potentially robbed Canberra during their 28-24 loss to Cronulla on Friday night.

The incidents lit a powder keg under the game with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart claiming fans were turning off the the game because of the standard of officiating.

Immortal Johns was at lengths to state he did not blame the referees.

However, he said there were too many people trying to tell them how to do their job and they were being sapped of confidence.

"I'm blaming the direction they're given and who's coaching the referees," Johns told the Nine Network's Sunday Footy Show.

"It's the constant chatter in their ear, touch judges - all game they're talking to them.

"During breaks of play, you've got the coach up in the box constantly talking to them about balance and about how they're refereeing, who's offside.

"Unfortunately for the referees, they have no feel for the game at the moment because of the directions they're given. They've lost all confidence."

Johns called for a simplification of the refereeing system and questioned whether the bunker should be scrapped.

"The solution is, trial it one weekend, we have in-goal touch judges, we have no bunker, just let the referees have a feel for the game," Johns said.

"We should get (former referee's boss) Bill Harrigan back involved, to run the referees - the best referee I've ever seen, he has a feel for the game, he would put the responsibility back on the referees."

The NRL's whistleblowers have come under the microscope after recent high-profile errors. Pic: Getty

Stuart called for the bunker to be scrapped after the video referees overturned an on-field decision to award Cronulla's Sione Katao a crucial 57th minute four-pointer.

The Raiders players stopped after touch judge Rick MacFarlane raised his flag after what appeared to be a Sharks knock-on.

Sutton also conceded a forward pass call which denied the Raiders a try late in the match was also incorrect.

Parramatta legend Sterling said the referees were over thinking their job as a result of too many voices in their ears.

"It's paralysis by analysis our game at the moment," he said.

"We will send something upstairs for a particular concern in the lead-up but then we will look at eight other things; we'll look at the play-the-ball, we'll look at a knock-on here, possible knock-on here, but we have go back and have a look at every bit of play."