The Courier-Mail

IT IS THE BLOCKBUSTE­R KICK-OFF TO THE FINALS SO DON’T BLOW IT FELLAS

- CHRIS GARRY

THE Cowboys have pleaded for referees to put their whistles away and not ruin the finals series with pedantic officiatin­g, after 19 penalties were blown in North Queensland’s win over the Gold Coast.

With NRL crowds down by 1000 per game on 2014, the last thing the finals needs is a penalty-a-thon.

There will be 50,000 people packed into Suncorp Stadium this Saturday for the first-ever finals match between Brisbane and North Queensland at the venue and the event deserves a free-flowing contest.

Cowboys players said the referees may have been instructed to clamp down on the ruck ahead of the finals series.

Cowboys coach Paul Green said over-officiatin­g would spoil the playoffs.

On average, there are 13 penalties awarded per NRL game this season, similar to last year.

There were three penalty counts of 19 on the weekend and one of 21.

However, the round average was 14.

Veteran Cowboys forward Gavin Cooper said it appeared referees had been instructed to penalise teams heavily.

“That’s what they may have been instructed to do and I think that’s what they will be doing,” he said.

“We were talking about it in the sheds before because there was another game with Pen- rith against Newcastle and there were 20 penalties in the first 60 minutes.

“The refs might have been told to clean it up coming into the finals.

“Hopefully the games flow. The crowd and players want to see the game flow.

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