NRL forced into four-year first for grand final after dreadful refereeing howlers

The NRL will have a changing of the guard for the NRL grand final between the Panthers and Broncos.

Adam Gee, pictured here in the NRL.
Adam Gee will referee the NRL grand final after blunders from Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein in recent weeks. Image: Getty/Channel 9

Adam Gee has been appointed to referee his first NRL grand final after a number of howlers from Ashley Klein and Gerard Sutton in the last two rounds. Last week, Klein made unwanted headlines after missing an obvious knock-on from Harry Grant, which caused uproar in the Storm's victory over the Roosters.

Klein paid for the controversy and was moved to the bunker last weekend. And Sutton also came under scrutiny after missing a blatant forward pass from Reece Walsh in the build-up to a Broncos try in their preliminary final win over the Warriors.

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Warriors fans were left fuming when Walsh broke the line, but clearly threw the ball forward to Selwyn Cobbo. There was also a hint of another forward pass as Cobbo passed it back on the inside for a Broncos try.

While the try didn't decide the result, it all but ended any chance of a Warriors comeback. It also marked another glaring error in the NRL finals, with the bunker unable to intervene on forward passes since 2001.

The missed call left commentator Andrew Voss stunned, with NRL boss Peter V'landys even supporting a review into looking to give the bunker more power to intervene for blatant forward passes in the future. Following the drama involving Klein and Sutton, the NRL revealed on Tuesday that Gee will be in charge of Sunday night's grand final between the Panthers and Broncos.

Ashley Klein (pictured left) missed a glaring knock-on by Harry Grant in Melbourne's NRL semi-final victory. (Images: AAP/Nine)

It will be the first time since 2019 (when Ben Cummins was in charge) that neither Sutton or Klein is in charge of the NRL decider. Many fans couldn't see how Sutton or Klein would be handed the whistle in the final following the scrutiny they have faced in recent weeks. While some fans highlighted the Panthers' winning record under Gee, the stat is exaggerated considering Ivan Cleary's men have won close to 85 per cent of games under all referees since their domination started in 2020.

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After an era of Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters providing the NRL's biggest heavyweight bout, the power is now shifting. For the first time in the NRL era, the sport has gone three seasons in a row without either the Storm or Roosters in the grand final.

Adam Gee reacts.
Referee Adam Gee (pictured) could be set to take over the NRL grand final whistle duties. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

And while at least one of those teams played in all bar five of the deciders between 1999 and 2020, it is Penrith who are now preparing for their fourth straight grand final. Long touted as the two best young teams in the competition, the Brisbane group have taken a little longer than Penrith to reach a decider, after picking up the wooden spoon in 2020.

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
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However, there is no doubt the two best teams will meet in the grand final with fans treated to key match-ups all over the field. Nathan Cleary and Adam Reynolds are set to lock horns as the game's two in-form halfbacks as they attempt to guide their team around the park. Broncos fullback and arguably the game's best player this year Walsh will also head up against reigning Clive Churchill medallist Dylan Edwards.

with AAP

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