Ticker's view: NRL must deal with referee bashing
THE NRL needs to consider a "captains only" rule to curb any future verbal attacks on referees by fired up players who lose the plot.
Watching players charge up to referees and get in their faces every time a try is scored or a decision is made is becoming a serious blight on the game.
NRL officials need to address the issue urgently in the wake of the Bulldogs' referee bashing which has two of the club's players - captain James Graham and David Klemmer - both cooling their heels for extended periods on the sidelines.
It seems players have lost some respect for referees who have been guilty of giving them too much latitude and not taking a tough stand like rugby union referees do with their yellow-card system.
Captains should be able to ask a referee to clarify a decision and relay that to his players.
But how many times do we see players who are not the team captain arguing and harassing referees over decisions?
Many of them are serial offenders, almost professionals at it.
Graham and Klemmer have been charged and punished for their disgraceful treatment of referee Gerard Sutton which almost certainly contributed to Bulldogs' fans pelting water bottles and other missiles at the match officials as they left the field following last week's defeat to South Sydney.
The NRL believes the two-week suspensions imposed on them are sufficient.
Others think the punishment should have been much tougher, to send a clear message.
Former Bulldogs skipper and professional referee harasser Michael Ennis believes Graham, a former teammate, will learn and be a better captain from the experience.
Others, though, believe the English international plays with too much passion and aggression to have the cool head needed in pressure situations.
New Zealander Benji Marshall, who has captained club and country, says players have an obligation to send a better message to the public.
"On the field we are role models. Kids that watch us on TV, they mimic what they see us do on TV," he told Fox Sports.
Marshall believes players approaching referees escalated in the back half of last season.
"It got bad towards the end of last year. Maybe if only the captains speak, that could be the answer," he said.
Referees have to start using the sin bin more when players cross the line.
NRL boss Todd Greenberg, meanwhile, has warned any such future displays toward the game's officials could lead to clubs being docked premiership points.