Carl Ablett: Judge for yourself if my ‘touch’ on the referee was deliberate

Referee Chris Campbell and Carl Ablett.
Referee Chris Campbell and Carl Ablett.
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THE FIRST thing I want to say this week is that it’s not acceptable for a player to deliberately put his hands on a referee.

If that happens I have no problem with the player getting called before the disciplinary and then he has to take whatever punishment they see fit.

Brian McDermott.

Brian McDermott.

Referees do a difficult job and they have to be treated with respect. Accepting a ref’s decisions is one of the things rugby league players are known for.

I have got no issue with that and I don’t think anyone in the game – players, coaches or fans – would want to see change.

However, I was disappointed to be charged and then get a ban for making contact with a match official – referee Chris Campbell – in last week’s game against Salford, because I don’t feel I was guilty.

I got a fair hearing and the disciplinary have a tough and important job to do, but I pleaded not guilty as I felt I had a strong case. That sort of offence isn’t something I want on my record.

Carl Ablett.

Carl Ablett.

There’s footage of the incident online so you can have a look for yourself. But please look at it from all angles, side on, in front of and from behind the posts, because I think the different views tell a contrasting story.

If you look at the video shot from behind the sticks, it shows what happened was not deliberate.

We are involved in a fast, all-action sport, which is moving all the time. In the situation last week we had just conceded a break and I was in cover-mode defence.

Robert Lui made the break and my thinking was that we had a full-back in place who could take care of him, so I had to deal with the support players who could score if he got the ball away.

I had to be in a position to affect them. My job was to take the shortest route to get in place to make a tackle on the support player – who was Mark Flanagan – if the pass came.

Remember that all this is happening at high speed. My focus was on making sure I got close to Flanagan and I could prevent him from scoring – I did not notice the referee and he was not in my thoughts.

I think the behind-the-sticks angle shows this pretty clearly and it also highlights the angle the ref’ takes. Looking at it on video, he doesn’t take the line I would have expected him to – he does a big left-hand veer as I am coming across to make the tackle.

I was running in one direction and he took an unusual line away from play. When we get into the same space you can see my foot becomes entangled with his foot.

His left leg strikes his right leg and that’s what causes him to fall. On the side-on angle it looks as if I put my hand up to push him, but that’s not what happens.

We got tangled, but it wasn’t a push and there was absolutely no intent on my part. My hand comes up, but that’s a reaction rather than me trying to get him out of the way.

Brian McDermott put it really well at the hearing. He said it was like when two people come around a blind corner from different directions and bump into each other – you put your hand up out of instinct and self-preservation.

If I hadn’t done that, it might have become a shoulder charge or we could have clashed heads, which would have been much more serious.

It was an accident, pure and simple. Sometimes players and referees do come into contact because both are concentrating on their own job.

There’s been a few cases recently of players being charged with making deliberate contact with a match official.

Obviously it is something the RFL and the disciplinary committee take very seriously.

I would support that, but every case has to be considered on its own merits and I think common sense has to be applied.

I think the panel on Tuesday accepted that there was no aggression, malice or intent at all in what happened last week, but I was disappointed to get the ban.

It was a grade B charge so I could have been suspended for two matches.

But it is frustrating to have to miss a big derby game like Cas away.