Gerard Sutton is at the centre of the latest refereeing controversy. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Gerard Sutton is at the centre of the latest refereeing controversy. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Sutton must make tough call on his brother

NRL referees' boss Bernie Sutton has to make the tough call this week and drop his brother, the game's leading whistleblower Gerard Sutton.

That's the verdict of former referees' boss Greg McCallum who said it would be "unfair" to make under fire touch judge Rick MacFarlane the sole scapegoat for Friday night's refereeing embarrassment.

There is talk MacFarlane will be demoted when the match officials are named for round 20 while Gerard Sutton and lead video ref Luke Patten are expected to escape the controversy.

Bernard Sutton said recently that the perceived nepotism with brothers Gerard and Chris "actually doesn't faze me at all".

But it sure might lead to more questions if MacFarlane is the only casualty here.

McCallum would not enter that debate.

But asked if he would stand down Gerard Sutton for his part in the try awarded to Cronulla's Sione Katoa after MacFarlane raised his flag, McCallum responded: "I think I would be looking at standing down the three, that includes the video referee."

Gerard Sutton awards a penalty in the Raiders v Sharks game. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.
Gerard Sutton awards a penalty in the Raiders v Sharks game. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.

Asked if MacFarlane would be a scapegoat if he is the only official demoted,

McCallum added: "In this case, yes.

"He would be the scapegoat if he is the only one stood down.

"There is multiple levels of error in this and I think it would be unfair if the touch judge was the only one to have paid the penalty."

McCallum said it was also unsatisfactory that three people all sitting in the video box missed MacFarlane raise his flag.

Canberra’s season is over because of the incorrect calls. AAP Image/Brendon Thorne.
Canberra’s season is over because of the incorrect calls. AAP Image/Brendon Thorne.

Bernie Sutton said over the weekend the review officials missed the moment because they were focusing to see if Jesse Ramien knocked the ball on.

That excuse didn't wash with McCallum.

"I can't understand how they didn't see the flag go up because everyone saw it," McCallum said.

"That is the issue that concerned me most out of it, the touch judge raised his flag.

"I know that they have said that he didn't call out.

"But when the touch judge has raised their flag they are in charge of touch and the game should have been stopped at that stage.

"I think there was some eye contact or communication, perhaps non verbally, between Gerard and Ricky, and then they decided to play on.

"The game should have been stopped at that stage."

McCallum has long been an advocate for one referee to work in conjunction with "an effective bunker" and he remains convinced one ref is still the way out of this current mess.

"The argument will be that the play the balls won't be as clean and whatever," McCallum said.

"But I just think you have to enforce the rules and you will get that.

"This is just all confusing.

"It would be very challenging in my view to be refereeing under today's set-up.

"It is not about the refs. They are a great group of guys. But there are issues that aren't resolved and they are festering around in the background.

"There is this sort of change of philosophy about decision making.

"It is now decision making by a committee rather than one guy making it who lives and dies by his decision."