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Phil Clarke asks if Super League referees should have a half-time chat about their performance

Phil Clarke - Phil Clarke (Rugby League Expert & Columnist) Posted 26th March 2014 view comments

What do you think about a half-time talk?

They have gone on in rugby league for many years now and if you take the time to search on the internet you can find some humorous and colourful ones when the coach lets fly with a volley of criticism and abuse - I think it's called 'the hairdryer treatment' in football!

Should refs get a half-time talk?

Should refs get a half-time talk?

Most of them, however, are well thought through and designed to give some quality feedback on the first-half effort. The whole purpose is to try and improve performance in the second 40 minutes.

So, what would you say if I told you that it was the referee and touch judges that I was talking about and not your favourite team?

They are just like players in wanting to do as well as they can, and provide the platform and conditions for a great game, to both watch and play in.

Phil Clarke
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It was an issue that was highlighted by Richard Agar in his post-match comments after the Wakefield had lost to St Helens. The Wildcats led 10-4 when the half-time hooter sounded, and yet lost the second half 20-6.

The Wakefield coach was unhappy that the match officials (one referee, two touch judges and two in-goal judges) had been visited by the match officials coach (Steve Ganson) during the half-time break.

In the immediate aftermath of defeat (in a game which the Wildcats were unlucky, in my opinion, not to win) I can understand Richard Agar's disappointment. However, I disagree with his point that the officials need isolation whilst they have their half-time oranges.


The match officials have had visitors and discussed the way the game has gone for many years now. They are just like players in wanting to do as well as they can, and provide the platform and conditions for a great game, to both watch and play in.

If you watched the Monday night fulltime show this week you would've seen John Kear agree with Richard Agar. He believes that the referee shouldn't receive any input from anyone other than perhaps the touch judges. Perhaps it is just me, but why should the ref be any different to the players? If we believe that the man in the middle needs to be left alone to collect his thoughts, then why don't we do that with the players?

Most people like to hear some feedback when they are doing their job, usually from a more experienced person who has done the job before them. It is one of the ways that we get better at our jobs. It does not make sense to me that you would waste an ideal opportunity to get some words of support and encouragement during a ten minute break.

If any of you saw the football game last weekend when the ref sent off the wrong man for Arsenal, try to imagine how he must have felt at half-time when his mistake became obvious. We could use another example: a game played in the NRL last year when both referees (the NRL have two on the field) allowed a try to be scored on the seventh tackle in the first half. It takes an incredibly strong mind to put this to one side and go out and referee the next 40 minutes without it affecting you.

I think it is a great idea that the ref is visited by someone who can try and help in these cases, even when the game has been incident free. We sometimes forget that the referee is often running around with his heart pumping at over 150 beats per minute.I have heard players talk about trying to 'Black Box' their errors and put them away to be assessed later. Mental tips like these help players so why not officials too?

The speed of the play-the-ball and the 10 metres that the ref has to take back the defending team are two things that fans love to talk about. Is their team being held down illegally in the tackle or taken back further than their opponents? The speed of the game for the officials is such that it's impossible for them to take it all in.

An extra pair of eyes and some info at half-time can only help if it is delivered in the correct way. It's not as if they are sending messages to the ref whilst the game takes place, as some coaches tend to do with their players.

Being a ref in Super League today is harder than ever. Let's give them all the help that we can.

Comments (2)

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Peter Bowden says...

I agree with Phil that a word in the ear of the ref can point out if he is getting things a little wrong and his performance should improve as a result in the second half. I have no problem with the half time team talk concept for the ref at all. However as Andrew says the fact that the pep talk was administered by a one time St Helens supporters club chairman throws into doubt the impartiality of his comments and therefore, the performance of the ref in the second half can also be questioned if there is a big turn around in the penalty count. I doubt that the team talk of the respective coaches would influence the discipline of the 2 sets of players so drastically as to turn round the refs performance from one team to the other so dramatically as Richard Agar suggests

Posted 13:34 28th March 2014

Andrew Blackledge says...

To stop the thoughts that a refreee was influenced by an official who was from the same town as one of the teams on the field of play (StHelens), then for that reason it should never happen. Let referees be judged by the whole game and then take steps afterwards...why bring into the equation an area of potential conflict.

Posted 10:03 27th March 2014

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