Johnny Foulmouth and the Case of the Incompetent Touch Judge

Filed in Other by on December 5, 2010

Andrew Johns was wrong. But he was right. And this whole kafuffle is a massive overreaction by the NRL and their incompetent bunch of officials. And worse, it is return fire for a number of incidents- relating to punting associates of Andrew Johns- that have had the rumour mill running hot for months but are impossible to prove.

On Friday evening, in front of a rampant stadium full of Knights fans and league heads, with the game on the line in an essentially season-defining match-up, after 79 minutes of blood, hurt and heroism, with the Eagles leading by two and staring grimly down the barrel of a last minute Newcastle win, Manly no-name centre Steve Matai stuck his arm out and knocked forward a Newcastle pass as they headed for the corner. Wow. Possibly the longest sentence ever. Dickensian in its confusion. Too intimidating to possibly re-read.

But I’ve drifted off…

Obviously, Matai would have been ruled to knock the ball forward and a scrum would be packed with a young kid named Andrew Johns to feed the ball. Newcastle would have one or two more shots. A grandstand finish, as those in the game say.


Despite touch judge Matt Cecchin being but metres from the action, the ruling was that Matai didn’t play at the ball and was entitled to dive on the loose pill. Well, when referee Simpkins concurred, it was on for young and old. Danny Buderus and Andrew Johns remonstrated fiercely with the officials, gesticulating and yelling and pointing like Richard Simmons on meth. During this exchange, Andrew Johns- a man of leisure and victory- directed some choice banter at Cecchin that in no uncertain terms suggested that the touch judge closely resembled a rather important part of the female anatomy. Old Johnny Foulmouth, having a little chat.

Now, the officials were wrong. Ludicrously wrong. And wrong for about the 15,000th time this season. And Tony Grimaldi was right, in some perverted and contorted way; swearing takes place on the field and at times, referees just have to wear it if the situation is high in tension and it is obvious that the abuse was out of character and not prolonged. Some thicker skin would not hurt these whistleblowers.

Nor would a new boss and some dashing new spectacles but we’ll get to that later.

Whilst what went on Friday night was all ho ho and could quite easily have been dealt with via an apology and perhaps a fine, it was the events over the following days that were the most interesting and the most pertinent. In the space of four days, Andrew Johns did his reputation and standing significant and perhaps irrevocable damage, the NRL was mistaken for the SS or at the very least a vindictive ex-girlfriend and those in the business of officiating rugby league only proved themselves further as the pig slapping fools they are.

Immediately after the match, Johnny Foulmouth filed an article for The Sunday Telegraph stating he would not apologise to the officials and rather, that they should apologise to him. He then- through his manager- threatened to pack his bags and head for England if he was suspended for a month. Johns then did a complete turnaround, pleaded guilty and expressed complete contrition. And the end result…Johns looks like a petulant brat who uses his standing in the game to get away with whatever he likes and then, uses his playing talents as a hammer to the head of rugby league in this country. No longer is Johns the likable knockabout with the silky skills of a Fulton and a heart the size of Phar Lap. He is just another footballer who has let success get to him. It looked as bad as Kinky’s nose.

The NRL also came out with a damaged reputation. Despite the fact that it is a near weekly occurrence that a player swears at an official and nothing gets done, the NRL found it necessary to hang Andrew Johns out to dry. A stitch up, if you will. Less than a month ago, Anthony Quinn did a similar thing to Johns, yet escaped unpunished. Johns is done like he has a bag full of goods at an Indonesian Airport. In no way can the NRL claim that there is anything resembling parity in this case. And what makes the NRL look more seedy and David Gallop more Ernst Rohm are the unsubstantiated rumours surrounding Andrew Johns’ associates, betting activity on Newcastle matches and the bad stain this has left on rugby league. The NRL is fully aware of these rumours and, in some circles, are generally believed to be punishing Andrew Johns for more than swearing at an official. This writer is leveling nothing at Johns or the NRL…just commenting on the hot output of the ever-running rumour mill.

But the most important revelation of The Johnny Foulmouth Affair…the complete and utter incompetence of NRL officials. On Monday, it was revealed that the biggest myth in league, referees boss Robert Finch, did not understand the rules of the game or the interpretations he wrote. The bloke is an absolute fool who has, throughout the entire year, shown how little about the game he knows. Finch does not understand the tryline offside rule. An eight year old with one eye and the common sense of Princess Beckham gets it. It’s not rocket science and it’s not dealing with fax machines. Yet Finch, the guy in charge of NRL officials, does not get it. It is his direction and his pursuit and defence of ridiculously narrow interpretations of rules that have ensured the quality of officiating in rugby league is at an all time low in terms of correctness and consistency. On field officials can be forgiven for the odd mistake. Off field officials cannot. Before trying to rub Andrew Johns out of the game for any period of time, the NRL should be looking to send Finch to the cold flatlands of Siberia.

But the whole sordid affair is over now. The bubble of hyperbole has finally popped. Vengeance has been sought and gained. Examples have been made. Teams have gained and lost. Power plays have been run and won. And the game of rugby league has come out with an awkward and difficult to explain stain on its reputation.

But, as our frisky friend Monica showed, a stain won’t make or break. But it sure as hell sticks.


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