Gavin Badger explains Cameron Smith’s influence and reveals most annoying player to officiate

Departing NRL referee Gavin Badger has hinted at what it’s like to try and control influential Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith — and revealed the most annoying player to referee.

Badger will run the line in Canterbury’s clash with Penrith over the weekend and bring down the curtain on an 18-year involvement at the highest level of professional rugby league.

Badger has taken charge of over 300 games in the NRL, but was told this week that he was no longer needed.

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The NRL has been forced into making mass redundancies in the wake of COVID-19 and it has been claimed that Badger was shown the door because “he wasn’t ‘one of the boys’.”

Despite the end of his NRL career approaching, Badger was in fine form on Friday morning when he went on the Big Sports Breakfast to talk about his career highlights.

It was there he was asked what it was like to referee Smith, revealing how the Storm skipper makes it look as if he’s the “extra ref”.

“He cops a lot Cameron, but the reason why he was captain of Australia, Queensland and so respected by people who play with him is because he’s such a professional,” Badger explained.

Gavin Badger talks to Cameron SmithSource:Getty Images

“As a captain he knows when he can approach a referee. Other captains come at the wrong time and get told go away.

“Cameron never gets told to go away, because he knows when he can and can’t do it.

“He knows how to say things and what to say. He doesn’t go over the line, he never gets turned away because he’s too aggressive or uses language.

“And because he’s so good at what he does, it looks like he’s manipulating or getting away with more than anyone else but what he does is he is just professional, he’s the ultimate professional.

“He gets a bad rap, it’s a running joke that he’s the extra ref on the field.”

Asked who the worst player to referee was and Badger responded in a flash.

“Michael Ennis,” he said. “Not for what people think (though).

“Michael Ennis – everybody calls him a grub, but he was one of the smartest footballers I ever refereed.

Michael Ennis talks to Gavin BadgerSource:AAP

“You knew when you refereed Michael Ennis – be on your toes.

“He was coming at you and he was coming at you educated. He knew what he was talking about and if you said the wrong word or slipped up, god help you.”

Badger explained that one of the things he found hardest to juggle was the microscope officials were placed under.

While players knock on, kick out on the full or miss tackles, referees are only ever talked about when something goes wrong.

Their mistakes are often highlighted by the NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley in his Monday briefings along with criticism from coaches, players and the media.

Badger said: “There’s a high expectation on officials in any sport to be perfect. The same scrutiny is not put on the players.

“You think about a missed tackle or dropped ball to win a game and a lot of the post mortem of that is that we feel sorry for that player; he must be feeling so bad.

“If a ref makes that error, that person should be sacked, it’s incompetent and unprofessional. The story behind a ref making a mistake is get rid of them and they’re incompetent, if a players makes a mistake the story is let’s get around this person, they need to be looked after.

“That’s the biggest one, because referees are human and we all go home to families and we want to be involved in the sport – you don’t wake up and say I want to be official, you do it because you love the sport.

“The last thing you want to do is have a decision which impacts the result of the game because for the whole week you read about it in the papers and on social media, it never stops.”

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Originally published asAxed NRL ref reveals Cam Smith’s secrets

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