We saw Danny Brough sent off for using foul and abusive language towards the referee, while Mark Percival received a ban after being sin-binned for disputing a decision.
In my career, I had varying experiences of interactions with players, including some dialogue that was healthy and some that wasn’t.
And I suppose the one thing I’ve taken from those is that you’ve really got to judge each case on its merits.
Rugby League is a high intensity contact sport and now and again players are going to get angry and frustrated in the heat of the moment.
If you brandished a red card every time somebody swore then you’re going down a slippery slope.
Sometimes it’s just industrial language being used and you’ve got to take it on the chin.
If they carry it on, and it becomes persistent, then you have to act on it, but it’s not as bad as what you see in football, that’s for certain, so we shouldn’t start making it out to be a bigger issue than it is.
I guess if there is a distinction then it’s between foul language being used in passing or being directed at a match official.
The referee has to be able to judge each situation rationally.
Sometimes you might get a “f**king hell, ref – what’s that for?”, and many times I’ve accepted that.
But when it starts to go beyond that, and it becomes personal, that’s when you’ve got to step in and deal with it.
I remember in the World Club Challenge match at Elland Road, between the Rhinos and Melbourne Storm, I had some verbal from Keith Senior.
I don’t know exactly what he was saying, but it was going on and on and on.
He carried the ball out and dived to the floor and I called ‘surrender’.
He thought Melbourne were lying on, and that he should have had a penalty, but that wasn’t the case.
He got up, played the ball, and started throwing this abuse as me.
I penalised him and he just carried it on, and I think I ended up sin-binning him.
However, interactions between referees and players aren’t always as negatively charged. Healthy dialogue throughout matches and at key incidents can be really productive.
I’ve used industrial language myself, just to try and calm situations, especially when games aren’t on Sky and you can get away with it.
When you’re not miked up, the odd swear word can be dropped in, and I think that sometimes helps. In a weird way, it normalises the conversation and can help cut through.
‘Oh f**king hell – what have you done that for?’ – sometimes a referee can use it to their advantage.
But the miking up of the referees during the modern era has certainly made it harder to have honest exchanges with players.
When you’re on Sky and miked up, you have to be very careful about what you say to players.
People can listen in during the week as well, because all of the conversation audio is submitted to Opta for other coaches and officials to access.
You have to be very careful that you don’t set yourself up to fall.
Communication between the officials is important, and the headsets and microphones are pivotal for that reason, but I don’t see why it needs to be broadcast.
It’d be quite easy to turn off that section of the audio, and for it not to go out the through the broadcast.
I’m sure many readers have spent evenings watching Sky games when all you seem to be able to hear is the referee yelling ‘Move’ and ‘Go’ at frequent intervals.
The interactions between referees and players may be interesting for viewers, and it can be helpful for new viewers to understand why decisions have been made, but I’m not sure the other stuff adds to the overall product.
The other element, of course, is the interaction between coaches and referees.
During my own career, it got to a stage where you had to be very careful.
If you started to talk to one coach before a match, the other coach would call the office during the week and say ‘they shouldn’t be talking to him’ and things like that.
It got to the stage where you’d arrive at game and daren’t even speak to anybody, because you could be accused of being influenced, and it just got a bit silly.
I absolutely think it’s healthy for referees to have conversations with coaches ahead of matches, and it’s been supported by various heads of refereeing over the years, so it’s a shame that this sort of climate sometimes prevents it from happening.
One prominent coach, who will remain nameless, and who isn’t in Super League any more, was fanatical about monitoring those sorts of interactions.
You daren’t speak to anybody because you knew he was watching your every move.
Elsewhere, it’s been interesting to see how the issue of players staging penalties has developed since my last column.
I know it’s something that Martyn Sadler has spoken about in League Express, and unfortunately, we’ve seen quite a lot more of it recently.
It’s just the way the game seems to be going at the moment, with players staying down in the hope of winning penalties.
Once again, the issue boils down to inconsistency between the games with the benefit of video replays and the ones without.
They’re becoming almost totally separate products, in terms of the tactics employed and the way they are officiated, and it desperately needs to be addressed.
Here’s hoping for more consistency in the seasons ahead.