National News

NRL finals no different for refs: Annesley

NRL head of football Graham Annesley says the high stakes of end-of-season matches, not a change of approach, was behind high penalty counts in last Sunday's fixtures.

There were 20 penalties awarded in Melbourne's win over Gold Coast before Manly and Canberra shared 27 penalties in their clash at GIO Stadium.

Annesley says nothing has changed from the NRL's point of view in terms of how it will use referees during the finals.

He instead attributed the high counts to players pushing the envelope as they chase crucial ladder positions.

"My position from the start of the year was that referees should stay out of the game as much as possible but I always qualify that by saying to the extent that the players allow them to stay out of the game," Annesley told AAP.

"We saw probably five of our games over the weekend that had relatively low penalty counts and we saw a number that were bigger.

"The referees aren't entirely in control of that. It's about how the players approach the game.

"In some cases it's about how close the game is and in some cases it's about how intense the game is."

Manly's 18-14 win over the Raiders was particularly controversial, with Annesley on Monday admitting Jack Gosiewski was offside before grabbing the match-turning intercept for the Sea Eagles.

Gosiewski eventually fed Reuben Garrick to cross for an eight-point try, awarded after the winger was kneed in the back by Joey Leilua after scoring.

Annesley, however, categorically denied there would be any official crackdown before or during finals.

"There's been no instruction to the referees to change anything," he said.

© AAP 2019