It was recently confirmed that Ashley Klein would be refereeing game one of the 2023 State of Origin series and the reaction to his appointment was certainly mixed.
Many fans believe that Klein does not deserve to referee a State of Origin game but with the perception of our game’s officials in general anybody could have been announced in Klein’s role next Wednesday night and there would be people up in arms.
Despite the criticism that Klein is receiving following this announcement, a Rugby League legend has backed his selection.
Former two-time premiership-winning player and the eighth Immortal Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns has discussed Klein’s appointment as the game one referee with New South Wales head coach Brad Fittler on their show Freddy and the Eighth.
Johns was full of praise for Klein and explained why.
“I think he’s in really good form. I like the way he refs: low penalty count, manages the game, he has a feel for the game,” said Johns.
The former Newcastle Knights halfback then backed up his point by singling out his performance in the Parramatta Eels victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs last weekend.
“That was the best game I’ve seen officiated,” Johns boldly claimed.
Klein is no stranger to the State of Origin stage having officiated last year’s series also.
Over the past couple of seasons people have critiqued certain decisions he has made in games leading to the 43-year-old developing a poor reputation amongst fans, arguably the worst of any referee.
Whether or not this criticism is deserved, Klein’s experience cannot be denied, having first worked as an official in the English Rugby League conference in the early 2000s before progressing to a role in Super League and eventually the NRL where he has been a referee for over a decade now.
Officiating a State of Origin game would have to be close to if not the hardest undertaking for a referee in our sport as fans become extra passionate and many try to pick out excuses when the result does not go their teams way which means any slip-up, even a minor one, could see Klein mercilessly ridiculed and it is certainly a job that only an experienced referee should be given.