Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys in discussion with the referee during the Round 3 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Thursday, March 22, 2018. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys in discussion with the referee during the Round 3 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Thursday, March 22, 2018. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

‘Don’t blame the refs, blame me’: Greenberg

NRL boss Todd Greenberg says he accepts full responsibility after a spike in penalties this season has drawn fierce criticism from fans and commentators.

Rugby league legend Andrew Johns became the latest to lash out at officiating after 19 penalties were blown in Friday's round-three match between Melbourne and North Queensland.

It came less than a week after 26 infringements were called between the Storm and the Wests Tigers - part of an increase of five penalties per match this year.

Greenberg said the referees are only doing what he's asked them to do and the onus is on the governing body to remain ahead of coaches attempting to push boundaries.

Dale Finucane also has a chat with the referee in Thursday night’s game.
Dale Finucane also has a chat with the referee in Thursday night’s game.

"If people want to come out over this weekend and start ripping into the referees, I've got some advice for them: they better start ripping into me first because all the referees are doing is following instruction," Greenberg said on Friday.

The NRL has been open about its edict to clean up the play-the-ball as well as ensure sides remain onside in defence.

Greenberg said it was up to the referees to ensure their crackdown lasts the entire season.

"I've asked the referees to make sure it doesn't just happen in rounds one, two and three, that it happens all year," he said.

"Ultimately, it'll ensure that the fans have a much greater game to watch."

Referee Chris James awards a penalty.
Referee Chris James awards a penalty. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Greenberg also said the competition committee would consider the reintroduction of the five-minute sin bin to prevent teams deliberately conceding penalties close to their tryline.

"That committee will meet after the first quarter of the season," he said.

"The first thing on that agenda will be the discussion around whether or not the referees and the changes we've made are working and if we need to have a stronger deterrent."

A furious Johns believed the game was being destroyed by penalties.

‘Don’t blame me, blame Todd.’
‘Don’t blame me, blame Todd.’

"Twelve penalties blown in that first half, I'd say nearly three quarters of them for offside, inside the 10," he said during the Nine Network's game commentary on Friday night.

"There's been 36 sets in that first half and every third set there's a penalty.

"Rugby league's a game that flows and there's attrition - as a ball player like myself and (Darren Lockyer) you try to wear out the big guys. You can't do that with so many penalties.

"It's destroying the game, there's no flow. Very frustrating to watch."


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