Marched! Refs boss Sutton pulled from picking brothers
The NRL has removed referees boss Bernard Sutton from all match-official appointments this year to shut down claims of nepotism that have split the ranks in recent years.
In a major shake-up as a result of the McCurry Review into the referees department at the end of last season, an independent seven-man panel headed by former players Jason King and David Fairleigh have been put in charge of all appointments.
It stops any suggestions that Bernard Sutton could favour his brothers Gerard and Chris.
There was a huge outcry in 2018 when Chris Sutton was appointed standby touch judge for the grand final ahead of officials who had been running the line all year.
Sutton will remain as refs boss but have no say in the appointments.
NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley said the new panel would free up more time for Sutton to focus on high performance and remove any perceived issues surrounding the transparency of refereeing appointments.
LISTEN! Phil "Buzz" Rothfield chats with Adam Mobbs about his Top 50 NRL players list
"Bernard Sutton has assisted with the creation of this new panel,'' Annesley said.
"This is a strong panel with representatives from all facets of the game. We now have former players, former referees, bunker review officials and a representative from NRL football management making our refereeing appointments.
"There will be greater rigour around the selection of our referees, more transparency and we expect stronger on-field performances because Bernard Sutton will be able to devote more time to coaching and administration."
FOOTY TIPS! Join Australia's best footy tipping competition for your chance to win big. Add our experts to your league and join now at TIPS.COM.AU
Bernard Sutton has previously said perceptions of nepotism towards brothers Gerard and Chris "doesn't faze me at all".
"I've already dropped Chris," Sutton said.
"I've actually demoted a number of referees. I deal with my brothers in exactly the same fashion.
"It really doesn't worry me. I'm really confident in the criteria we use to select our referees."
The panel will make their appointments for the first round of the competition today.
REFEREE APPOINTMENT PANEL
Chair - Jason King (General Manager Elite Competitions, former NRL player)
David Fairleigh (Officiating Coach, former NRL player)
David Boyle (Officiating Coach, former NRL player)
Russell Smith (Officiating Coach, former international referee)
Steve Chiddy (Bunker Senior Review Official, former touch judge)
Jared Maxwell (Bunker manager, former referee)
Gavin Reynolds (Officiating Operations Manager, former referee)