NRL referee's astonishing admission about grand final error

·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
Ben Cummins is pictured on the left, with a screenshot of the six again call from the 2019 NRL grand final on the right.
NRL referee Ben Cummins has discussed how the six again call in the 2019 grand final affected his mental health for months afterwards. Pictures: Getty Images/Fox Sports

They're words no Canberra Raiders fan wants to hear - but veteran referee Ben Cummins has admitted 'I stuffed up' in the 2019 NRL grand final.

Cummins, a respected referee of more than 400 matches, has spoken out for the first time about the fallout of the crucial six again call in the 2019 decider between the Raiders and Sydney Roosters.

In the midst of an entertaining arm-wrestle, scores were locked at 8-8 when Canberra's Jack Wighton took the ball believing Cummins had just called six again.

Indeed he had, but as Wighton run into the Roosters defence, Cummins changed his call - correctly as it would later turn out - handing the ball back to Sydney on the sixth tackle of the set.

The Raiders were rattled and the Sydney seized momentum in the aftermath, the turning point proving decisive as James Tedesco scored soon after to hand the Roosters the lead.

Sydney went on to win, and Cummins says he knew immediately afterwards that there would be plenty of scrutiny on that game-changing moment.

“I realised I stuffed up big time and I tried to correct the call – which would have been the right call,” Cummins said.

“But Jack Wighton didn’t see that and he got tackled and the Roosters get the ball and go down the length of the field in the next set and score.

“I realised then that this was big at eight-all in a grand final.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than this.

“I walked into the tunnel and cameras were all on me … my heart sunk.”

Cummins opened up about the aftermath of the decider in the wake of the death of NRL great Paul Green, at the age of 49.

Though he expected some level of abuse as part and parcel of being a referee, seeing his children being harassed about the split-second decision weighed heavily on Cummins.

Referring to the months following as 'dark times', Cummins said he 'basically locked myself in my house for a week' following the decider.

“It was pretty dark times. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I had some thoughts about what I wanted to do with my life and they were pretty negative.

“You feel ashamed and worthless, embarrassed. I wasn’t sleeping. I just wanted everything to go away.”

Ben Cummins opens up about infamous 'six again' call

The veteren referee opened up about the saga in a video published by the NRL, encouraging viewers to seek help in times of mental health crisis.

Cummins spoke about how the fallout affecting his family further affected his anxiety in the wake of the grand fnal.

“When you sign up to referee at the top level, you know that it comes with fans who are passionate, and people can say things about your performance,” Cummins said.

“But when it brings in your family and your home, it’s sort of to a different level. I found that really hard.

“I cant say it was easy for them. My son was copping a lot of abuse at school and my daughters (were) online – because they are on social media. That was really tough."

The NRL world is reeling from the death of Green earlier this week, with North Queensland coach Todd Payten admitting the loss of the club's first premiership coach had been a shattering blow.

Their club chaplain has met with club veterans who played under Green, who oversaw 167 games between 2014-2020, with welfare specialists and psychologists also available.

The NRL has also deployed professional support services for Cowboys players and staff.

North Queensland Cowboys coach Todd Payten has discussed the heartbreaking loss of club legend Paul Green. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)
North Queensland Cowboys coach Todd Payten has discussed the heartbreaking loss of club legend Paul Green. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

Payten was an assistant to Green when North Queensland triumphed in the grand final over Brisbane 17-16 and said the experience had made him a better coach.

"Myself and my family owe him a great deal of gratitude," Payten told reporters on Friday.

"He gave me an opportunity to bring my family up here when I didn't have a job, and that was his decision.

"He made me a better coach in many different ways, certainly challenged everyone around him to be better and you know, he was good company. He was a good father and was a good person."

It's been a difficult 24 hours for the Cowboys with a clash against the Sydney Roosters at the SCG looming.

Green led the club to two grand finals in three years, transforming a side with NRL great Johnathan Thurston and his legacy as North Queensland's maiden premiership-winning coach is cemented.

With AAP

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