The referee your NRL team can’t win with
Ivan Cleary says he has never sworn at anyone in rugby league.
But if someone were to make this Penrith coach drop an f-bomb?
Well, we reckon it's referee Ashley Klein.
That leading NRL whistleblower who Cleary, almost a year ago to the day, had his now infamous tunnel showdown.
Tuesday's @telegraph_sport back page. Ivan Cleary's tunnel confrontation with Ashley Klein revealed, via @BuzzRothfield PLUS Robbie Farah to announce his retirement @BulldogRitchie pic.twitter.com/nuZWTatogW— Adam Mobbs (@AdamMobbs) July 29, 2019
When in a match against Canberra, the Panthers coach was accused, then later cleared, of not only getting up close and personal with Klein at halftime, but saying of the Raiders: "Ashley, they're f … ing lying all over us. You've got to stop them".
Which brought headlines.
Then a hearing.
Yet officially, nothing more came of the stoush between coach and referee.
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE WHO THE REFS LOVE TO HATE
Um, there remains something of an issue.
Specifically, that Penrith lose 71 per cent of all games controlled by Klein.
Or put another way, their worst record under any referee.
Among the worst of any team in the NRL too.
Which undoubtedly, is a worry for the Panthers head coach.
Especially now with his side not only leading the NRL premiership race, but looking - just like each of their rivals - for any little advantage they can find as the October playoffs loom.
Indeed, with the road to grand final day anything but clear - and the top eight, four, even two yet to be decided - League Central has crunched the numbers to provide your ultimate NRL referees guide for the season's business end.
With help from Fox Sports Stats, we've not only identified the best and worst referees for those nine sides still in the premiership race, but also the best and worst of those who are a chance of appearing in the NRL playoffs.
Apart from spanning every game over the past five years, the analysis also includes every referees who has officiated a team on five or more occasions.
So which official does your mob least want to see when it matters most?
The hit list reads as follows …
As mentioned above, Klein has a habit of overseeing Penrith losses.
In fact, while few clubs have a whistleblower responsible for a worse success rate than at least one in three games, the Panthers win just 29 per cent of matches with Klein in charge.
Best for the westies, meanwhile, is Gavin Badger, with 80 per cent. Among those officials likely to appear in the playoffs however, the honour goes to Adam Gee (61.5%).
OK, so we could tell you the Storm always do well under referee Cameron Smith.
But given how testy the purple marauders get at this time of year, we'll play it straight.
Worst referee for the Storm is Matt Cecchin, with whom the side still wins 61.5 per cent of the time.
In fact, the only referee overseeing less than a 50/50 split for the southerners - or is it northerners now? - is the wonderfully named Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski (43%), but he has only controlled two NRL games this season.
Best for Storm meanwhile is Adam Gee (88%).
If you've been a Parramatta fan long enough, you love Graeme Atkins.
That old Eels winger who not only scored in the club's maiden 1981 premiership, but also played over 100 games, starred in three grand finals - four if you include the '77 replay - and remains fondly remembered as a life member.
But as for son Grant? Nah, not so much.
In fact, when Grant Atkins referees the same club where his old man won a title, they lose 62 per cent of the time. Which isn't great.
And certainly worth a discussion at the next family BBQ.
Best for Parramatta meanwhile is Gavin Badger (76.5%), while Chris Sutton (61%) is the pick among leading referees.
Ben Cummins could hardly be accused of hating on the Roosters, especially after his infamous 'six again' drama in last year's grand final.
However the data suggests that, among leading NRL referees, it is Cummins who the back-to-back champions struggle with most - winning just 56.5 per cent of the time.
Special mention also to Gavin Badger, with whom the Chooks win only 37.5 per cent the time.
But the best for Trent Robinson's men?
That honour goes to Chris Sutton, with an 80 per cent success rate.
Given we hate to reopen old wounds, maybe Ricky Stuart should look away now.
While it has now been 12 years since Stuart, as Kangaroos coach, delivered his infamous World Cup spray at Ashley Klein, it seems the whistleblower continues to haunt the Raiders coach.
According to Fox Sports Stats, the Green Machine win just 37 per cent of games controlled by Klein. The only referee with a worse record is Peter Gough (17%), although he currently sits outside those most likely to control the NRL finals series.
At the other end of the scale, Canberra win 75 per cent of games officiated by Grant Atkins.
6 SOUTH SYDNEY
Put simply, South Sydney win less than one in three games controlled by Adam Gee.
Of the 16 games Wayne Bennett's men have played under Gee over the past five years, they have succeeded in just five - for a success rate of 31 per cent.
Best for the Bunnies is Chris Sutton, whose success rating is 73 per cent.
He may not have the profile of Wayne Bennett or Nathan Tinkler, but referee Jon Stone also knows how to upset Novocastrians.
Officially, Stoney has controlled 14 Newcastle games - with the Knights losing all of them.
Given the whistleblower sits outside the main group however, controlling just two NRL games this year, the honour then reverts to Matt Cecchin, under whom the Knights boast a success rate of only 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, best for Newcastle is Ashley Klein.
Despite the Knights' woes in recent years, they have still managed to win half of their 12 games officiated by Klein.
Henry Perenara may be a Cronulla Old Boy, but the Sharks certainly get no favours from him.
According to Fox Sports Stats, the Sharkies win just 46 per cent of games controlled by the fella who played his final NRL season with Cronulla in 2007.
The Sharks only do worse under Gavin Badger (44%) and Phil Henderson (40%), however both men have controlled only two top grade games so far this season.
Best for the Sharks is Jon Stone, under whom the Shire boys have won all six games. When it comes to referees involved in the big games however, the whistleblower coach John Morris wants most to see is Adam Gee (76.5%).
The New Zealanders don't so much struggle under one whistleblower as a family of them.
Specifically, the Suttons.
According to the numbers crunched, the Warriors battle to win more than a quarter of games controlled by either Chris Sutton (25%) or his brother Gerard (27%). Best for the Kiwis meanwhile is Peter Gough, although he sits just outside the top tier of eight referees and has controlled only seven matches in 2020.
That means the top spot switches to Henry Perenara, who debuted with the Warriors in 2000.
While he rarely controls games in which another of his old clubs, Cronulla, enjoy success, Perenara has a 56 per cent success rate with the Aucklanders.
Originally published as The referee your NRL team can't win with