Keegan Hipgrave was sin-binned twice in the Titans’ loss to the Rabbitohs. Picture: AAP
Keegan Hipgrave was sin-binned twice in the Titans’ loss to the Rabbitohs. Picture: AAP

Titan’s plea to referees: ‘We just want to play footy’

TITANS firebrand Keegan Hipgrave has appealed for NRL referees to put their whistles away and let players "play footy" after he became the first man in 16 years to be sin-binned twice in one game.

Hipgrave was sent for two 10-minute spells in the Gold Coast's 18-16 loss to South Sydney on Friday for minor infringements.

The 21-year-old was pinged for being off-side and later marched again for a stripping penalty.

Both sin-binnings occurred after Gold Coast captain Ryan James was warned his team had conceded too many penalties in a short period and the next player to infringe, no matter the offence, would be disciplined.

Not since Parramatta's Michael Buettner in 2002 had a player been sin-binned twice in the same game.

Hipgrave, who has been suspended twice in just 11 first grade games, said players were fed-up with the penalty-fest the NRL had become after the Titans lost a 12-4 penalty count.

"We just want to play footy," he said.

Keegan Hipgrave carts the ball up against the Bunnies. Photo: AAP
Keegan Hipgrave carts the ball up against the Bunnies. Photo: AAP

"It was disappointing and frustrating, especially the second time coming off. I was shattered and felt like I let the boys down.

"That's the way the game is at the moment. I'm not sure what they're going to do but we just want to play footy.

"I'm only 21. I'm going to take the next couple of years to keep improving and learning.

"I've got to play the way the ref is reffing. That's a learning curve for myself at the moment."

After only five penalties were blown in the State of Origin series opener last Wednesday, referees reverted back to their crackdown blitz in the NRL over the weekend.

Maroons and Titans prop Jarrod Wallace said Origin I was the highlight of the year because the teams were allowed to play without constant stoppages.

"It was crazy fast, I can tell you that much, and that's how it should be," he said.

"That's how the games back here (in the NRL) should be. That's what the fans and players want.

Referee Grant Atkins speaks with Titans captain Ryan James during the Round 14 NRL match between Gold Coast and South Sydney. Picture: AAP
Referee Grant Atkins speaks with Titans captain Ryan James during the Round 14 NRL match between Gold Coast and South Sydney. Picture: AAP

"We train under high intensity so it's like that. When there is a 14-6 penalty count or something ridiculous, the fans don't want that. It hurts the game.

"The referees are doing their job. They are doing what they're told to do. They've probably got the hardest job on the field at times.

"It's a high intensity game, it's fast. The boys are doing everything they can to get their bodies in front and do the best for their team.

"When we're getting penalised and penalised for silly things, it's hard to cop.

"The penalty count hurt us and the dropped balls hurt us as well. The referees aren't the only reason we lost."

Wallace is facing a one-match suspension for dangerous contact which would rule him out of the Gold Coast's clash with Canterbury on Saturday.

Keegan Hipgrave and Jarrod Wallace do their best to stop Robbie Farah. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Keegan Hipgrave and Jarrod Wallace do their best to stop Robbie Farah. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

But he urged Hipgrave not to change his aggressive ways after insisting the young Titans forward was "stitched up" with two sin-binnings.

"He puts his body on the line every week. He was stitched up a bit there," he said.

"He can't help that he happened to give a penalty away after there was four others.

"It's ridiculous. He gives away one penalty and gets stuck in the bin. It's a stupid call.

"They've been doing it heaps lately."