NRL under fire as star faces ban for referee contact

Scott Bailey |

Storm warning: Jahrome Hughes (left) found himself in hot water after shoving a match official.
Storm warning: Jahrome Hughes (left) found himself in hot water after shoving a match official.

The NRL have come under fire after charging Jahrome Hughes and leaving him facing a two-game ban for contact with referee Chris Butler.

In a bizarre postscript to Melbourne’s thrilling 30-26 win over the Warriors on Saturday night, Hughes was on Sunday hit with a grade-two contrary conduct charge.

The charge relates to an incident in the second half, when Butler found himself between Hughes and Rocco Berry as the Warriors centre charged for the line.

Replays show Hughes pushing Butler out of the way, with the referee hitting the ground before the Storm halfback attempts a try-saving tackle.

AAP understands the charge relates only to the physical contact, with Hughes not alleged to have said anything untoward.

The incident prompted chuckles from onlookers and commentators at the time, but the NRL have deemed it no laughing matter.

NRL referee Chris Butler (right).
Referee Chris Butler (right) was pushed over as Hughes tried to prevent a Warriors try. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

The Kiwi international would miss next Sunday’s match against Newcastle with an early guilty plea, but risks a second week out if he fights the charge unsuccessfully at the judiciary.

If found guilty, Hughes would be the first player banned for contact with a referee since a spate of suspensions during an NRL crackdown in 2016.

Hughes won support from pundits including Brad Fittler, Andrew Johns, Corey Parker and Michael Ennis on Sunday.

“He wouldn’t have even been watching,” Johns said of the Storm halfback on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“He is just watching (Berry). He’s not even looking at the referee. He is a bit hard done by there. 

“We need to protect the referees, without a doubt. Especially at junior level. But for me that was an accident.”

Fittler questioned the positioning of Butler, while Ennis was even more scathing of the charge.

“Let’s not gloss over it, it’s absolute stupidity,” Ennis said on Fox. 

“The referee gets in his eyeline, gets in his way. Commonsense says this is not one of those moments when a player gets frustrated and puts his hands on a referee.

“That was a complete accident from Jahrome Hughes. I hope they fight that, because he should never miss a week for it.

“And the fact he was charged is just absolute stupidity. It’s ridiculous.”

Melbourne Storm's Jahrome Hughes.
Hughes is the only player facing a ban out of Saturday’s NRL matches. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

The NRL would not comment publicly on the charge on Sunday, and Melbourne have until midday on Monday to decide whether to challenge the ban.

The Storm have been without Hughes’s usual halves partner Cameron Munster for the first two rounds through injury, but he is a chance to return against the Knights.

Butler was the second official to become entangled in play over the weekend.

Canterbury were denied a try on Friday night against Cronulla when referee Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski was deemed to have got in the way of the Sharks’ Braydon Trindall as he tried to stop Viliame Kikau close to the line.

There was contact between Trindall and Przeklasa-Adamski, but only in the process of the player attempting to make a tackle.

Hughes is the only player contemplating a ban out of Saturday’s matches, with others charged facing only fines.

AAP