Ben Cummins set for NRL retirement, speaks out against referee abuse
The veteran referee will put his whistle down after this weekend
The NRL's most experienced referee Ben Cummins will retire after the final round of the 2023 season.
Cummins, who made his debut in the top grade during 2006, has gone on to be one of the NRL's longest-serving referees with 442 appointments.
In addition to that, he has refereed 14 State of Origin matches, 13 Test matches and a City-Country clash, while he has also refereed at two Rugby League World Cups and controlled the 2014 World Club Challenge.
But according to The Sydney Morning Herald, Cummins has made the call to wind up his career. According to the report, he believes not landing a key game in Round 27 is an indication he isn't wanted in the top refereeing squad.
Cummins levelled criticism at the NRL for not retaining more referees, and failing to protect them from abuse.
“The retention of referees isn't great,” Cummins said.
“We do development sessions with young referees and talk to the parents. A lot of it comes from the top down.
“They see what happens at our level. If there's another option where you won't get abused or criticised, even if it's minimum wage at Maccas, you'll take that job.”
Cummins' point is backed up by the fact that top referees regularly perform double duties each weekend with a game on-field and either in the bunker or on the sideline, while some touch judges generally have two games per weekend.
The NRL has, however, looked to progress a number of junior officials, with Kasey Badger and Belinda Sharpe both officiating a game in Round 27, while others like Todd Smith and Peter Gough have become regular parts of the officiating team. Liam Kennedy and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski are other officials hanging around the fringes of having regular first-grade spots with the whistle in hand.
The retiring veteran referee said he simply didn't want to be a part of the current dynamic from the public towards referees, which focuses on a single 50-50 call rather than the hundreds of decisions that are correct each game.
“There's such a focus on the things we do wrong. The media focus on those decisions, one or two a game, and everything a referee does positively gets missed,” he said.
“There's so much stuff we do to contribute to the game; hundreds of decisions, managing players, assessing different situations. You get one 50-50 call and everyone focuses on that and then it's ‘refs in crisis'. Not sure how you fix that. That's changed. I don't want to be a part of that.”
So bad has it become that Cummins implored his son to take up officiating AFL rather than NRL.
Cummins will control the Round 27 clash between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Newcastle Knights on Saturday evening in Wollongong as his 443rd and final match.
The game has little riding on it, with the Dragons locked into a 16th-place finish, while the Knights have a home elimination final locked up next weekend and are resting players with the only change being fifth or sixth place based on other results.