Former referee Matt Cecchin has no regrets

While Brisneyland becomes the NRL’s focus this weekend, the NSWRL will hold its Respect Round, an initiative that started in 2016 with the purpose of creating a “positive” environment for all participants, although, in reality, it’s about stopping people from spraying match officials with an array of colourful nouns and adjectives.

“Chicken Legs” Cecchin might have hung up the whistle, but he remains passionate about the next generation of referees.

“Ask if the game needs officials the same way we need players, coaches, media and even the ball itself — you know what the answer would be,” Cecchin said. “It makes a massive difference knowing that you’re needed. The biggest accolades I got in high-profile games came when I had little to do. Maybe I’m not placing enough importance on the art of knowing how, when and why to gently guide a game. Knowing when and how to conduct the flow of play.”

Perhaps more than ever, you need a quality referee to ensure a quality game. As far as Cecchin is concerned, the lack of respect comes from an unhealthy focus on officiating.

“The challenge our game has is that only bad news gets people’s attention and sells papers or gets clicks on news feeds,” he said. “And ref controversy is the only bad news that doesn’t stop parents from letting their kids play footy. The other bad news is drugs, sexual assault, gambling – all of which stop kids from playing.

“The downside of bad news about referees is that it detracts from refs being in a positive spot to perform their best. How good would Billy Slater have played if he had the pressure of knowing one dropped ball or one missed tackle that affected the outcome would mean he’s not in first grade next week? Even at the peak of my career I knew that one critical error may affect the outcome of a game and that would mean I’m dropped the next week.

“About 95 per cent of the feedback you receive externally and internally is negative, and it shapes officials to only recognise the yucky stuff. Although accountability and improvement often come from mistakes, the balance needs to be offset by the importance of our place in the game. Respect goes a long way.”

Well said, Cecch. Make sure you keep those chicken legs away from the crocs.

King amongst Kings

Jubilant Sydney Kings players and staff converged on the Coogee Pavilion on Thursday afternoon to celebrate their first NBL championship in 17 years.

The Kings swept the Tasmania JackJumpers with a thrilling game three win at Qudos Bank Arena the night before.

They did so without Most Valuable Player Jaylen Adams, who suffered a hamstring injury in game one last Friday night, for two matches.

Sydney Kings get their hands on the holy grail of Australian basketball again.Credit:Getty

Will Adams return? He’ll be playing in the NBA Summer League and there’s every chance an NBA franchise will pick him up.

If not, the Kings are confident of re-signing him next season. His family have told the Kings they have rarely seen the 26-year-old so happy.

Sydney’s resurgence in the past three years or so is something to behold, and if you needed any indication of their popularity it came in the fourth quarter when co-owner Paul Smith announced a grand final record crowd of 16,149.

Smith asked NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet — a huge hoops fan — to join him on the court for the announcement, much to the bemusement of the crowd.

“Why are you booing me?” Smith laughed.

Tough crowd.

Bunnies boiling over Reynolds

There were a few raised eyebrows around Redfern when former coach Wayne Bennett questioned South Sydney’s decision to let halfback and captain Adam Reynolds join the Broncos.

Bennett adored Reynolds and wanted him to stay but the fact is he rebuffed a plan that would’ve ensured Reynolds could be re-signed for two years.

The Bulldogs wanted prop Liam Knight mid-season, a move that would’ve cleared salary cap space to keep the veteran No.7.

As the man in charge of recruitment last year, and desperate to win a premiership in his final season, Bennett rejected the move — much to the dismay of the other powerbrokers at the club.

Time to fire up

The revelation from Herald colleague Christian Nicolussi that Penrith players used video of Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes mocking Mt Druitt to fire them up before last year’s preliminary final got me thinking.


What are the great motivational tactics coaches have used over the years?

Bennett is the master of the dark arts, famously doctoring a tip sheet before the Broncos played St George in the 1993 grand final, pointing out the players’ deficiencies.

Before the 1992 Origin decider, NSW coach Phil Gould took his players to an empty but lit-up Sydney Football Stadium, telling them to stand in their positions for the kick-off. Prop Paul Harragon was frothing at the mouth.

As for halftime speeches, SEN’s Joel Caine told the story this week of how Queensland coach Arthur Beetson walked in, asked Wally Lewis how he thought he was playing, then left. Queensland won and The King was named man of the match.

Perhaps the best speech belongs to Parramatta coach Jack Gibson, who didn’t even enter the dressing-room at halftime in the 1982 grand final against Manly because his side was playing so well. Parra won.

Waiting game on Liz’s answers

“The truth will always come to light and it ain’t even dawn,” tweeted Opals outcast Liz Cambage in response to claims from former captain Jenna O’Hea that she allegedly made racist comments about Nigerian players during an Olympics warm-up match.

So what’s the truth, Liz? What are you waiting for? A six-part Netflix special?

Athletes perpetuate this idea about not needing mainstream media (#MSM) because they have their own social media “platform”. In truth, they hide behind it, refusing to answer questions that would indeed allow “the truth to come to light”.

Here’s some questions she might consider answering …

Did you tell those Nigerian players to “go back to your Third World country”? Did you, as Andrew Bogut and Andrew Gaze and numerous sources at the game have suggested, say any more than that? Is it correct you didn’t stop until you were pulled from the court by the coach? Is it correct that one of your Opals teammates, who has a Nigerian background, as you do, was left in tears because of your conduct?


“It’s the blood that gets to me. That’s what I love, seeing that blood, that bloody nose. The joy I felt from that.” – Nikita Tszyu after pounding the bejesus out of Mason Smith in his second professional fight in Newcastle. How good is blood?


When former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou took over Celtic a year ago, the club was apparently in crisis. On Thursday morning, they were crowned Scottish Premiership champions with a draw against Dundee United. “For the first time this year, I’m lost for words,” he said afterwards.

Ange Postecoglou salutes the Celtic fans after sealing the Scottish league title.

Ange Postecoglou salutes the Celtic fans after sealing the Scottish league title.Credit:Getty


Dallas Mavericks fans intimidated and pushed the mother, wife and children of Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul during Monday’s Western Conference semi-final at American Airlines Center. He tweeted later: “Wanna fine players for saying stuff to the fans but the fans can put they hands on our families….f..k that!!” People are the worst.


The Waratahs. To steal a line from George Costanza, they’re back, baby! Sort of back. They’re knocking on the door of the top four and eyeing off their first Super Rugby home final since 2018. Saturday’s clash against the Hurricanes at Leichhardt Oval will be critical but it’s fair to say the Tahs have again got cache up the ying-yang!


Sam Kerr, who is chasing another domestic double with Chelsea when they meet Manchester City in the FA Cup final on Sunday (AEST). Kerr scored two goals — including a deft chip over the keeper’s head — in the win over Manchester United last weekend to secure a third straight league title.

Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.

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