Beth Newman, Phil Lutton June 08, 2012
"I'm not a fan of the refs wearing the mic so everyone can hear what's going on" ... Johnathan Thurston. Photo: Paul Rovere
CANDID audio of player interactions with referees has given league fans unprecedented access to the playing field. But Queensland star Johnathan Thurston has called for periods of silence, saying some conversations should not be heard by television viewers.
Relations between players and referees have been thrust into the spotlight after the State of Origin opener, prompted by a NSW backlash after a series of decisions they believe cost them the game.
The next day's coverage of the Maroons' 18-10 victory was laced with exchanges between Blues captain Paul Gallen and officials Ben Cummins and Matt Cecchin, with Gallen's anguish clear as he vented at the pair of whistleblowers.
At one point he said: ''This is out of control. This is ridiculous.'' After the first-half brawl that saw Michael Jennings sent to the sin bin, he asked: ''Are you for real? Sam Thaiday has been running in for years doing that.''
Thurston understands the appeal of wired-up referees to broadcasters. But he also believes there should be avenues for players to talk to officials without the world tuning in to every word. ''I'm not a fan of the refs wearing the mic so everyone can hear what's going on. But that's the way the game has gone,'' Thurston said.
In 2010, Thurston narrowly escaped suspension after he launched an expletive-ridden rant at referee Jason Robinson. But he said his relationship with referees has generally been productive. Still, he believes a forum outside of earshot to viewers - or filtering out the occasional spirited diatribe - would be beneficial to both.
''When you're losing, you just want to get the result that you want and sometimes that doesn't happen. So, it can be frustrating,'' Thurston said. ''I suppose you need to just take a deep breath. It's a physical game and when you're in the heat of the battle, things are said that should stay out there.''
Thurston isn't the only one in the game who believes a more measured approach to what is and isn't broadcast could be investigated.
Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg went in to bat for his club's skipper Michael Ennis last week after the Bulldogs hooker used some colourful language during a heated exchange with Robinson.
That outburst, along with another spray from Sydney Roosters captain Braith Anasta, prompted referees coaches Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper - both retained yesterday after the post-Origin fallout - to call for players to show officials a greater degree of respect.
But Greenberg said there had to be some onus on broadcasters to understand that a passionate, physical game was bound to occasionally provoke some language not fit for church or children.
''In a perfect world, those things wouldn't be happening,'' Greenberg said. ''But there also has to be some onus and responsibility on the broadcasters. This is a highly-charged game and I think it's also important we remember he wasn't swearing at the referee.
''The concept of having microphones on referees is to try to bring the viewer into the live experience. We don't want our players being robots on the field. There is a bit of learning in it for all of us.''
Former NRL referee Tim Mander, now a member of the Queensland Parliament, said players simply had to adjust to a situation where every word they utter is for potential public consumption.