Craig Bellamy and Leeds Rhinos CEO Gary Hetherington pose with the World Club Challenge trophy.
Craig Bellamy and Leeds Rhinos CEO Gary Hetherington pose with the World Club Challenge trophy.

Leeds fume over referee-gate in WCC rule switch

LEEDS claim they have been blindsided by an NRL decision to play Friday night's World Club Challenge against Melbourne with two referees.

The Rhinos were told on Wednesday the AAMI Park game will be officiated by two NRL referees despite agreeing with the Storm two months ago that the game would be played under international rules, with only one whistleblower.

With the Super League also played with just one referee, Leeds say they've never played with dual referees before and complain that they weren't given sufficient notice to prepare for the different set-up.

Leeds coach Brian McDermott is not happy with the WCC referee rule switch.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott is not happy with the WCC referee rule switch.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington went further and accused the NRL of moving the goalposts to help ensure the WCC trophy returns to Australia.

"For the NRL to move the goalposts at 48 hours' notice and after no consultation with ourselves is totally arrogant and simply not on," Hetherington told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"One can only suspect the NRL are desperate to see the World Club title return to Australia." Leeds coach Brian McDermott also protested the decision, although didn't feel it was a ploy to help the Australian club.

"It's not good," McDermott told Leeds Rhinos' website.

"I don't think there's anything sinister in it from the NRL, but their competition plays with two referees and ours plays with one.

"We are not happy this has been forced upon us.

"We agreed in England some parameters of how we are going to play the game.

"The term that was used was always international rules and international rules are you play with one referee."

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McDermott said having two referees may lead to the match becoming a "penalty-ridden game".

Melbourne veteran Ryan Hoffman said his own club was surprised by the NRL edict. "We were surprised too," Hoffman said on Thursday.

"It is completely out of our control but it won't matter to us.

"It's what you do with the ball, the idea is to not have the referees involved in the game too much."


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