NRL referee quits over ‘vile abuse and death threats’

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Long-serving Australian rugby league referee Matt Cecchin says he is quitting at the end of the season after receiving “vile” abuse and “hundreds and hundreds” of death threats.

The 44-year-old will take charge of his 300th NRL game on Sunday when Penrith Panthers play Canberra Raiders.

But Cecchin is unlikely to officiate at many more games – though he has not ruled out moving to Super League.

“I’m done,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Much of the abuse came after he – correctly – disallowed a late Tongan try in their 20-18 World Cup semi-final loss to England last year.

Cecchin says he was placed under police protection following that decision.

Officers told him: “We’ve picked up hundreds and hundreds of messages and they are death threats.”

“My son got hit, my partner got hit and my mum got hit with death threats,” Cecchin said.

“I started thumbing through my phone and there were more than a thousand messages. They were vile. I’ve never had that before in my whole career. When I got home to Sydney, our house was put on alert.

“I was picked up from the airport by the police. It was really, really serious. I don’t like attention as a referee. I want to do my job without any fuss and then leave. The reality is that after that game, and for the first chunk of this year with all the noise that’s been out there, it’s been tough. Really, really tough.

“Imagine if I got the call wrong?”.

Sunday’s game will see Cecchin become only the seventh official in NRL history to reach the 300-game landmark.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was critical of the “weak individuals” he blamed for driving Cecchin out of the game.

“It’s sad to see because I believe ‘Cecc’ is one of the top referees in the competition and to lose him, we’re losing a lot of experience and ability and it’s sad for the game because we can’t afford that,” he said.

“People out there have to sit down and really think about what he’s saying.” (Courtesy BBC Sports)

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