Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
NRL referee Matt Cecchin has recently announced that he will be hanging up the whistle and retiring from his role.
In a recent interview on SEN 1170 Mornings, the 48-year-old has opened up about his career and what it was like to referee games where Rugby League legend Cameron Smith was captain of one of the sides.
The referees were often criticised by fans for favouring Smith and his side the Melbourne Storm, but was this purely coming from a place of jealousy that their team was simply not good enough to compete with the champion side or did the fans have a point?
Well, Cecchin seems to admit Smith was influential, but not that he was necessarily wrong.
“He (Smith) is certainly one of the most intelligent players I’ve ever refereed,” Cecchin said.
“The thing with Cameron – he did get a lot of air time with referees – but he did it in a way that he’d come and talk to you on the field and you’d feel like pausing the game, ordering a couple of coffees or a couple of beers to have a chat about it.
“He was really engaging, not in a nasty, ‘You stuffed that up’ way, but he would say, ‘Cech, I agree with that penalty, but can you keep an eye on this guy? He always seems to get caught in there and we’re not really locking it in’.
“Your mind starts to go, ‘Maybe he’s right?’, he was very, very, engaging and very clever with how he did things
“Off the field, you’d speak to him about the game, he just knew it in such complexity, it was incredible.”
When watching a game featuring Smith, his Rugby League intelligence is clear to see, as is his well thought out and respectful arguments when approaching referees.
Every week we see players charge towards referees yelling and screaming out of frustration, with said players often being told to go away or not having their argument taken seriously by the official.
NRL club captains should take inspiration from Smith’s strategy and try to approach referees in a calm nature so that they are more easily able to put forth a more precise argument.