'Bigger effect': Why fining abusive NRL coaches doesn't work

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Manly coach Des Hasler (pictured) speaking post-match after an NRL game.
Des Hasler (pictured) was fined by the NRL for his post-match comments after Manly's loss to Melbourne. (Getty Images)


Ask the NRL why it fines coaches for venting their anger at referees and their number one response will be it's to protect young match officials working their way through the ranks.

After fining Des Hasler and the Manly club $25,000 for comments made after the Sea Eagles' controversial loss to Parramatta, they hit the play and repeat button.

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CEO Andrew Abdo said: "They (coaches and players) set the example for what happens across fields across Australia at a mass level," he said.

"Public criticism of this nature makes it harder to recruit and retain match officials at all levels of the game."

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'Landys also reached for the same club.

"I know it’s a passionate game and it’s a tribal game and we all have banter about the referees, but this is what causes referees at junior games to be abused by parents," he said.

It's a nice and noble thought and probably makes those in charge feel they are doing the right thing, but the policy doesn’t appear to be protecting those it set out to protect.

The practice of muzzling – or attempting to muzzle - coaches has been around for decades yet has anyone bothered checking in at grassroots level to see if it's having the desired impact?

We did.

Referee claims NRL fine system a revenue raiser

Yahoo Sports Australia spoke to a number of referees and referee associations and found there was no real link between what is said at NRL press conferences and what transpires in park football.

Many did not want to go on the record for fear of a "please explain" call from the NRL – "I don’t want to have to explain myself to them. It's not worth it," one ex-NRL whistle-blower told us – but the head of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association was happy to talk.

Alan Reese, who has spent a lifetime with a whistle around his neck or mentoring young refs, oversees 350 match officials in one of Australia's largest junior rugby league regions.

He sees the NRL's fines system as not much more than a revenue raiser.

"I don't see any correlation between the two to be perfectly honest," Reese said when asked whether fining NRL coaches helped the cause of junior officials.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart (pictured) watches as he waits to be interviewed.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart (pictured) is another coach that has been fined in the past. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"It is important what they do at that level (NRL), but I don't see fines as any sort of deterrent.

"Whether Des Hasler gets fined or not, I don’t think that's going to make a difference to how we're treated on a weekly basis at community football level."

Reese believes the key to curbing referee abuse lies in the respect and behavioural programs being rolled out across the country in all sports.

It puts the emphasis on players, spectators, coaches, officials and clubs to follow a strict code of conduct or face heavy consequences.

Reese said: "We see that having a bigger effect. The onus is on the individual to behave.

"I think there is a lot of frustration out there with life in general, not so much the game, and they see games as their means of cutting loose.

"That's where it comes from and this respect program will be really beneficial for us."

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