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Former NRL star critical of referee change

Former Western Reds player and Penrith Panthers premiership star Mark Geyer has criticised the NRL’s decision to return to a one referee system, saying it will dramatically change the way the game is played in 2020.

Speaking to Sports Drive on Thursday, Geyer said he struggled to understand how the league could revert to a sole officiator, which the NRL announced this week was to be implemented as a cost cutting measure.

“I think the game has totally outgrown one referee, the ruck area in the game needs most policing,” he said.

“We’re going to take that policing away. The first thing people do when authority is removed is they try and bend or break the rules. My worry is with the one ref your ruck area will become a dog’s breakfast and a lot messier than normal.”

The NRL referee’s union lodged an official complaint to the Fair Work Commission on Thursday, with the possibility of a strike still possible two weeks out from the restart of the season.

Geyer praised ARL Chairman Peter V’Landy’s efforts to get the game back on in 2020 but was critical of his latest move, with one referees in matches to allegedly save the league more than 2 million dollars this year.

“I’ve loved everything he’s done, he’s led on the front foot and always been two or three steps in front of most people’s opinions and he always seems to be able to cover grass a lot better than other people, but I think it’s short sighted to take away one referee.” He said.

The 180 game first grade player with Penrith, Balmain Tigers and the now defunct Reds said the code would look vastly different as a result.

“The whole fabric of the game will change with one referee. The athletes these days are bigger, stronger, and faster. It’s a lot harder to stop player one on one these days unlike when I played in the 1990’s,” Geyer said.

“So if we’ve got 3 or 4 (players) in a tackle there’s going to be wrestle, there’s going to be niggle, there’s going to be holding down. That’s where the ruck referee comes in perfectly.”

Despite a tumultuous four to six weeks for the sport, with players breaching social distancing rules, debate around players and flu shots and the departure of Todd Greenberg as CEO, Geyer couldn’t wait for the season to return.

“I’m 52 now and I’ve been a part of rugby league for 47 years. It’s been in my blood. When something gets taken away from you that you really love, it hurts. But the fact that it’s back on the 28th May, all that hurt just goes,” he said.

“I want to see footy played, I don’t care if I have to go out and referee as long as I can see the game. I just want to watch footy. It’s my life. When it comes back it’s going to be one joyous occasion.”

Return to play fixtures are set to be announced by the league in the coming days.

IMAGE: Fox Sports.


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