This article originally appeared on Stuff and is reproduced with permission
Two Warriors legends have called for the NRL to do something about the number of calls going against the club, but New Zealand’s most successful rugby league referee, Henry Perenara, insists there’s no bias from officials.
The comments come amidst the outcry caused by the chief executive of the Warriors’ major sponsor, who launched a furious attack on officials after the Magic Round loss to Penrith.
The NRL’s head of football, Graham Annesley, said he was “hot under the collar” over the remarks, noting it questioned the integrity of not just those making the decisions, but the entire administration.
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The Warriors’ inaugural captain Dean Bell and club great Logan Swann have both told Stuff they’ve seen too many decisions go against the Warriors lately and this needs to be addressed, with Swann going as far as to get in touch with the NRL about it.
“In the context of these games recently something needs to be said. You can’t keep sweeping it under the carpet,” Swann said.
“For the first time in a long time, I have actually taken the time to contact the NRL in disgust with some of the calls and decisions that have been made by officials.
“I haven’t had a reply back, but I’ve never felt compelled to do that before.”
Swann had two stints at the Warriors over his illustrious career and played 195 games for the club. He says during his playing days he always felt there was a bias from referees against the Warriors.
“Definitely I felt there was something wrong there and there were decisions made over the course of my playing career with the club, where it felt 50/50 calls went against us,” Swann said.
“It wasn’t until 2001 to 2003 when we had Daniel Anderson (as coach) and that rock star team performing so well that we started to get some of those 50/50 calls go our way.
“But I guess we were of a different mindset then where we focused on taking those 50/50 decisions out of the game and just performing exceptionally well.
“That’s what the current team is doing, but there have been a few calls recently that begged a question.”
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Bell, who led the Warriors out for their first ever game, against the Broncos in 1995 and was the club’s general manager of football between 2013 and 2015, said the Warriors wouldn’t be blaming the decisions for their current three-game losing streak, but believed questions need to be asked as to why so many calls are going against them.
“How I was brought up was that you’ve got to be better than the referee,” Bell said.
“When games are so tight these days it does make a difference. I am torn, in that the Warriors have got to be better to win those games and especially with Andrew Webster in charge they’ll be the first to admit that.
“But it would be nice to have some consistency. You see other games and watch someone get a knock to the head and think he’s going to get penalised or sent to the sin bin, yet for some reason those calls aren’t happening for the Warriors at the moment.”
However, retired NRL referee Henry Perenara, one of New Zealand’s most successful officials, said there has never been any anti-Warriors bias.
“Any referee would tell you that’s not true at all, about a bias against any team,” he said.
“There’s no unconscious or conscious bias and if there was, you wouldn’t be doing your job properly.
“Every referee, particularly in professional sport, they take their job extremely seriously and it’s their livelihood.”
While Warriors fans are crying foul right now, Perenara felt it needed to be remembered that referees aren’t going to get every decision right and believes things do balance out over time.
“Wayne Bennett said it the other day; everything that goes around, comes around,” Perenara said.
“Referees don’t want to make mistakes, they would go over them and analyse them as much as anyone ever would.
“The group of referees I was involved in were so diligent in everything they did. The problem is, there is only one referee on the field and there are 12 ultra-high definition cameras and seeing every single thing.
“Referees see things in real time and the game is officiated in slo-mo and that’s in any sport, especially with technology these days.”
It’s been a complaint since the playing days of Bell and Swann that the Warriors are hard done by from officials, but over the past three weeks those voices have grown louder.
Warriors players were angry when Moses Leota went unpunished after planting his forearm into the face of Tohu Harris on Saturday. Referee Todd Smith said it was looked at by the bunker and no action would be taken against the Panthers prop.
“It was a hit to the head, it clearly was. There’s no getting away from it,” Bell said of the incident.
“I saw it, thousands of people saw it. Why wasn’t it dealt with that way?
“That’s an issue, it has to be addressed and I can see the Warriors’ frustration.
“They (Warriors) are not saying they’re cheating or anything like that, but if it was happening to other clubs as often as it is with the Warriors, they’d be bringing it up and I think they should do. It’s a discussion that needs to be had.”
Swann highlighted incidents the previous two weeks, where the Warriors also didn’t get the rub of the green.
“There was the shoulder charge during the Roosters game and the player (Sitili Tupouniua) went on to score a try in the set after,” Swann said.
“Also in the Storm game, Reimis Smith went up to contest the ball and there was one camera angle that would have shown he touched the ball, they would have seen that if they slowed it down, but they didn’t bother going back to that camera angle again and went to a couple of other cameras to get the point across that there was no touch.
“So it’s really frustrating and to have quite a few people mentioning things, there really needs to be something done about it, otherwise it looks amateurish.”
“The NRL is the greatest game on the planet, so they do need to make sure the people officiating the game are doing a good job, because at the moment it’s been substandard.”
Perenara, who was forced to retire as a referee at the end of 2021 because of a heart condition, said the bunker is supposed to help officials make more correct decisions and he felt generally that was the case.
“It’s a necessity, because if you didn’t have the bunker there would be more incorrect decisions,” he said.
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