Brisbane insist they have no problem with Ben Cummins being assigned to their NRL elimination final despite the referee’s howler the last time they met.
Instead of sparking conspiracy theories, Broncos veteran Justin Hodges joked his team might receive a friendly “square-up” from Ben Cummins after the controversial referee was assigned to their NRL elimination final.
However, their opponents North Queensland may be forgiven for feeling nervous about Cummins’ appointment after refereeing howlers marred their last two finals campaigns, prompting claims of a Sydney-centric NRL.
Hodges insisted they had no problem with Cummins holding the whistle at Saturday night’s must-win finals clash in Townsville despite the official’s gaffe the last time they met.
Cummins is still living down his bizarre decision to sin-bin Broncos forward Matt Gillett for being off-side in their round 25 win over the Dragons.
“It’s water under the bridge now,” Hodges said.
“At the time it was a call he made that he thought was right but in saying that we got away with the win.
“We can’t be relying on refs’ decisions, we need to go out there and have the game’s result in our hands.”
But Hodges could not resist a friendly barb, hinting Cummins may be tempted to give them the 50-50 calls as a “square-up”.
“Hopefully it would be nice to have a bit of an advantage,” he laughed.
“But I don’t think that is going to happen.”
Broncos playmaker Ben Barba even empathised with Cummins barely two weeks after Brisbane were left gobsmacked by the round 25 blunder.
“They’ve got a tough job, it’s a faster game and their job has got a lot harder,” he said.
“We can’t do anything about it so it’s not our worry.”
The Cowboys insist they also have no problem with referees barely a year after an emotional response to their unfortunate 2013 finals departure.
Then-North Queensland coach Neil Henry hinted the NRL was Sydney-centric after a seventh tackle try helped seal Cronulla’s 20-18 finals win over the Cowboys.
Remarkably a year earlier officials missed a Kieran Foran knock-on and awarded Manly a try in their 22-12 semi-finals win over the hapless Cowboys.
But Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston said North Queensland had accepted that they simply weren’t good enough to win in their past two finals campaigns.
“We had opportunities to win those games the last two years and referees’ decisions aside, we just weren’t good enough to get the ball over the line in the end,” he said.
“But I believe we are a better side than 12 or 24 months ago.”