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Thurston and the ref

Moment of contact: North Queensland’s Johnathan Thurston collides with Matt Cecchin during the match against the Warriors. Picture: Fox Sports
Source: The Daily Telegraph

ORIGIN III in Brisbane was always going to be must-win – but it's no surprise that the nervous Queenslanders have turned into a must-whinge game as well.

The bleating from north of the border reached a crescendo this morning as our sister paper, The Courier Mail, branded Johnathan Thurston’s judiciary charge for running into a referee COCKROACH JUSTICE.

And former Maroons were lining up to slam the NRL match review committee responsible for charging Thurston after his collision with ref Matt Cecchin during the North Queensland Cowboys and Warriors match.

It’s not the first time that Cecchin has been flattened by a Queenslander, Sam `Third Man in’ Thaiday knocked over the ref earlier in the round 13 game between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks.

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Both players, Thurston particularly, have a history of not showing referees adequate respect, but it was a couple of ageing Queenslanders not showing simple facts that same adequate respect.

“The bottom line is they’re kidding,” Immortal Arthur Beetson fired. “My mate looked at me today and said ‘this is a joke, isn’t it?’ and he’s Ron Massey, he’s from NSW, he’s one of the best.

“Coming from him, it says it all. Now Thurston’s got to go down and fight it. Johnathan’s so competitive he wouldn’t have even seen the referee.

“He’s one of the most competitive guys in the game, he’s always trying to stop tries and create tries.

“The refs are not only making bad mistakes, now they’re getting in the way in more ways than one.”

Beetson argued an anti-Queensland agenda at headquarters had long existed.

“Some of the refereeing and decisions the NSW league let go for NSW players was a joke, they wonder why we get so fired up,” he declared.

“The Broncos got poor decisions at the judiciary for a long time too. Some things never change.”

Sadly, history doesn’t back up poor old Artie.

The rugby league judiciary has a long history of punishing players seriously for any contact with a referee. Steve Roach was banned for four matches for famously patting the head of Eddie Ward at Brookvale Oval in 1990.

Rugby league’s hardest man, Kevin Ryan, was banned for five weeks for shoving a ref during his career.

And tough Souths forward Wayne Chisholm was banned for 10 weeks for tackling a referee in 1991.

If found guilty, Thurston will miss two club games plus Origin III, given he would be ineligible for Origin selection. His fate, and perhaps the Maroons, lies with leading Sydney-based barrister Geoff Bellew, SC, who cleared Thurston of a dangerous throw during the 2007 NRL semi-finals. The Cowboys will argue that Thurston’s eyes were fixed on Warriors’ five-eighth James Maloney racing for the tryline and that he didn’t see Cecchin.

Gorden Tallis was, quite predictably, the next cab off the rank.

“They set a precedent in letting Uate off, and now they do this, when both of them [Thurston and Cecchin] got up laughing,” Tallis said. “Are they serious? There’s no consistency. “

Even the Gold Coast Bulletin got in on the act, rolling out Tom Raudonikis to say Thurston should play.

“It’s not like in our day, they don’t really commit a lot of fouls these days,” he said. “The league should wake up to themselves.

“It’s disgraceful. Utterly ridiculous. That’s how stupid our game is.”

In website comments, the arguments of Maroons fans were an equal mix of rabid and ridiculous.

“They’ve sunk to new depths with this one. Anyone who can’t see this as cheating is a liar. There’s no honour in this decision. Turns your stomach doesn’t it,” wrote Digger of the Gold Coast.

Steve Cairns wrote: “What a load of crap.Gallen can flatten Inglis and no one cares but we get pinged for a ref backing into JT’s line! Maybe they will also cite Cameron Smith for blowing his nose while he was on the bench. Fair dinkum, do what you like NSW, we really don’t care.”

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