The NRL has conceded a bizarre blunder allowing Nathan Cleary to take a conversion further infield than he should have could have major implications on who will referee the grand final.
A frustrated head of football Graham Annesley has described the error, in which Penrith’s Cleary attempted a kick for goal about six metres closer to the posts than the line of Brian To’o’s second-half try, as “simply unacceptable”.
Cleary subsequently missed the conversion with the Panthers leading 10-0 before they held off a late rally from the Storm to book their grand final spot at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Eagle-eyed viewers noticed the point of Cleary’s conversion was well away from the sideline where To’o had touched down, prompting Annesley to hint it will be influential in the decision of whether Gerard Sutton is appointed to a seventh grand final.
Television replays showed Sutton appeared to walk back on a line where he thought the try was scored before Cleary’s conversion attempt.
“I’ve asked for an explanation as to how this could have possibly happened, but regardless of the reason it is simply unacceptable,” Annesley said.
“I can understand a split-second judgment error in general play, but this is a basic procedural matter that should never occur. Thankfully the kick missed so no advantage was gained, but we will further consider the implications of the error when we meet to review both games [on Monday] morning.”
Sutton has been regarded as the NRL’s No.1 whistleblower for several years, and will be lining up in his fifth straight decider should be take control of the Penrith-South Sydney season finale. He was also in charge for all three State of Origin matches this year.