The Dominion Post

Graham reveals racist slurs by NRL match official

- Jackson Thomas

A former Warriors star was allegedly the subject of a racist attack from an NRL match official.

The incident has come to light as former Warriors coach and Kiwis league great Mark Graham claims unconsciou­s bias is behind the string of controvers­ial refereeing decisions that have helped to essentiall­y kill off the club’s top eight hopes this year.

Stuff spoke with Graham after the refereeing horror show against the Eels which saw the Warriors robbed of a crucial competitio­n win – and the referees subsequent­ly dropped.

It prompted explosive claims from one of the game’s most revered figures, and brought to light a confrontin­g story.

‘‘I knew that every game we ran out we were playing uphill and were likely going to get a bad rub of the green,’’ Graham said of the officiatin­g during his time at the Warriors helm.

‘‘But one game in particular, I will never forget.’’

In the match, a Warriors player of Polynesian descent was sent from the field for foul play. It was a contentiou­s call, but what followed was to be the subject of far more criticism.

The players, coaches and referees hit the sheds, but the match officials forgot to switch their microphone­s off. When Graham returned to the box, he was handed a piece of audio.

According to those Stuff spoke to who heard the audio at the time, the officials were talking about the incident as they headed up the tunnel. What followed was a discussion about how they were going to justify what they knew to be a wrong call, should it go to the judiciary. But the most damning part of the overheard audio, according to Graham, were racial slurs used to describe the player in question. ‘‘They were talking and one said ‘did you think it was really that high?’, and someone responded ‘who cares, he’s just a b .... c...’,’’ Graham said.

‘‘I was very angry, disappoint­ed. It saddened me because that’s the way a team who were always so respectful to referees were spoken about.’’

Graham and then Warriors chief executive Trevor McKewen took the issue straight to the top.

McKewen did not hear the alleged racial slur, but admitted he did miss a section of the audio.

He was shocked to listen in and hear match officials ‘‘conspire’’ against the Warriors after the blown call.

Stuff approached the NRL for comment on the matter and a copy of the report, but did not receive a response.

‘‘Once we complained to the NRL, they were more concerned about how I had come to hear it [the audio] rather than the issue of what was said, and that really frustrated me,’’ McKewen said.

‘‘It turned into a s... fight basically, but we held our ground because we felt that what was said and the way it was said was not on.’’

The incident was a long time ago, but both Graham and McKewen say disrespect and prejudice over the years has contribute­d to it now simply being ‘‘part of the game’’.

But neither believes in a Warriors v referees conspiracy – nor that the officials are deliberate­ly out to get the Kiwi club.

‘‘I do think referees take the easy option on a lot of 50/50 calls, subconscio­usly, which is to ping the Warriors,’’ McKewen said.

‘‘The reality is we are a Kiwi club in an Australian competitio­n and I believe it’s a disrespect that has always been there.’’

According to team-mates of the the player at the centre of the alleged racial slur that Stuff spoke to, he did not want to take the issue further at the time through fear of word getting back to his family.

The incident still gets Graham’s blood boiling to this day. He said unless something was done about the current state of officiatin­g in Warriors matches, fans would start to turn away.

 ??  ?? Mark Graham
Mark Graham

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