Andrew Voss lashes NRL over Ashley Klein's axing for preliminary finals

The experienced whistleblower was dropped for the NRL's two preliminary finals after a pair of high-profile mistakes.

On the left is Andrew Voss and NRL referee Ashley Klein on right.
Andrew Voss has questioned the NRL's decision to axe referee Ashley Klein from on-field duties for the preliminary finals. Pic: SEN/Getty

Veteran commentator Andrew Voss has come out swinging at the NRL after the axing of top referee Ashley Klein for this weekend's preliminary finals. Klein was this week demoted from on-field duties after a pair of high-profile errors in the Melbourne Storm's semi-final win over the Roosters.

The experienced whistleblower, who took charge of every State of Origin game this year as well as last year's NRL grand final - has been demoted to the Bunker for Brisbane's match against the Warriors on Saturday night. Klein came under fire for missing an obvious knock-on from Melbourne's Harry Grant against the Roosters - a mistake compounded by the fact the Storm scored a crucial try moments later.

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The referee could be heard apologising to Roosters captain James Tedesco on the field after apparently seeing replays of the incident on the big screen. Klein also opted against penalising Sam Walker for a high shot on Grant in the dying stages of the match, when the Storm were trailing by one point.

Pictured left to right, Ashley Klein and Harry Grant.
Ashley Klein missed a glaring knock-on by Harry Grant in Melbourne's NRL semi-final victory. Pic: AAP/Nine

The NRL responded by stripping Klein of on-field duties for the preliminary finals, meaning he is also certain to miss out on officiating another grand final in 2023. Voss argued that if Klein was considered one of the top-two referees in the NRL before Friday night's match then that shouldn't change based off one bad performance. "He's made a mistake, now let's move on," the veteran commentator said on SEN radio.

"If he's in our top-two... he did every Origin game, he did the grand final (last year), he did the World Cup final. So now you're telling me he's not up to it? I just don't think that's supported.

"It wouldn't happen to the players, no way. Do you think if Nathan Cleary had a bad game, would he be dropped? Come on."

League world throws support behind Ashley Klein

Klein has been given support across the rugby league community after copping a litany of abuse from disgruntled fans on social media over the high-profile gaffes. League great Billy Slater was among those to hit out at the online trolls, arguing that human error is a part of sport that fans simply have to live with.

"There's a little saying that before you judge anyone, make sure you're perfect," Slater said on Nine's The Billy Slater Podcast. "Sometimes we all need to have a little bit of a think about that.

"Referees are humans and we've seen and spoken about the mics on referees and having that at our disposal. The fact that we all know that he apologised to [Roosters captain] James Tedesco after the try was scored, after he made a mistake — that enhances the conversation around it, which is unnecessary.

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Slater's defence of Klein also carried a warning that such abuse of an official will only deter others from wanting to become referees in the future. "I really feel for Ashley Klein and referees [in general]. We need referees in our game. If we don't have man referees and people wanting to referee our game, we don't have a game. We need to remember that."

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo also launched an impassioned defence of Klein and a message for fans to change the ugly culture of blame that overshadows the sport.

"It's not how I want to see our next generation growing up," the NRL CEO said. "In sport, sometimes you don't always get the decisions go your way. That is just the nature of sport. Guess what? Business is like that and guess what? Life is like that."

Abdo stressed that Klein's demotion was not a sign that the NRL had lost faith in his abilities. "These guys (the referees), like the players, love the game and are hugely committed to the game and they're going to, like players, have form and form changes," he added.

"It's just the natural flow of high performance: ebbs and flows in form. No one is more devastated than they are when they review performance and they understand that they may have missed a forward pass, or they may have missed a penalty. A referee might have a bad game and they might not get elevated or they might not be selected. That doesn't mean that we're not supporting them.

with AAP

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