Weighing in on the shocking social media abuse directed at Ashley Klein in the wake of the NRL referee's error-strewn performance last Friday night, Billy Slater has put forward eight words of wisdom.
Klein has refereed 14 State of Origin games, including all three matches of this year's series, and was the whistleblower for last year's NRL grand final, but he's been dumped after making blunders in last Friday's qualifying final between the Storm and Roosters.
He will not referee either of this week's preliminary finals, between the Panthers and Storm in Sydney and the Broncos and Warriors in Brisbane.
When Melbourne led 6-0 in the 25th minute last Friday, the veteran referee failed to spot a knock-on by Storm hooker Harry Grant in the Tricolours' red zone despite being only several metres from the play. Melbourne worked its way out of trouble, received a penalty, kicked for touch and scored a try through Marion Seve.
Klein then made another blunder when Melbourne trailed 13-12 late in the match, opting against awarding the Storm a penalty after Roosters halfback Sam Walker hit Grant high. If a penalty had been awarded, the Storm would have banged over a simple penalty goal to seal victory. Fortunately for Storm supporters, Melbourne won regardless, thanks to a stunning aerial effort by winger Will Warbrick in the final two minutes, with the hosts clinching an 18-13 win.
Slater has addressed the awful social media abuse directed at Klein following his error-riddled performance.
"There's a little saying that before you judge anyone, make sure you're perfect," Slater said on Nine's The Billy Slater Podcast.
"Sometimes we all need to have a little bit of a think about that.
"Referees are humans and we've seen and spoken about the mics on referees and having that at our disposal.
"The fact that we all know that he apologised to [Roosters captain] James Tedesco after the try was scored, after he made a mistake — that enhances the conversation around it, which is unnecessary.
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"I really feel for Ashley Klein and referees [in general]. We need referees in our game. If we don't have man referees and people wanting to referee our game, we don't have a game. We need to remember that," he said.
Whether Klein's faulty performance will cost him a grand final appearance this year remains to be seen.
The only role Klein will play in the preliminary finals is as the Bunker official for the Broncos' clash with the Warriors on Saturday night.
"I liked [Roosters coach] Trent Robinson's response in the press conference," Slater said on his podcast.
"He acknowledged that there was a mistake, as well, but he acknowledged that his team missed a tackle in conjunction to the try that followed.
"So there's mistakes made all the time. Teams make 20, 25 mistakes a game, but a referee makes one and we want to come down on them.
"It usually evens itself out.
"I can understand teams and supporters being a little bit hard done by when it's so blatant like it was, or not blatant, but it's replayed and it's front and centre and it's highlighted like it was."