Ashley Klein has been called “a protected species” despite NRL officials preparing to axe the veteran referee from grand final duties.
Klein has refereed 23 finals matches, 14 State of Origins and was in charge of last year’s decider but has come under fire for two bad mistakes last weekend.
The whistleblower first missed a blatant knock on by Storm star Harry Grant and then a high shot on the hooker just before their match-winning try against the Roosters.
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Veteran journalist Phil Rothfield revealed that Klein has been demoted to the Bunker for the preliminary finals this weekend and will likely stay there for the grand final/
“Ashley Klein has always been seen as a little bit of a protected species, a koala bear… he’s made errors in the past that haven’t been treated as seriously as other referees who have made mistakes,” Rothfield said on NRL 360.
“The reason being, is because he’s done well in the big games, grand finals, Test matches, State of Origin.
“So I am applauding the NRL for making him accountable and picking two form referees this weekend, (Adam) Gee and Grant Atkins.
“It hasn’t always been like that and I’ve had plenty of blues (with the NRL) about some referees (getting special treatment).
“Ashley Klein can handle big moments but he had a shocker the other night.”
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Braith Anasta asked Rothfield if he thinks Klein will get the nod again to referee the grand final.
“Well I would think he can’t, but look he’s going to be in the Bunker this weekend and that’s a really smart move,” Rothfield said.
“Take him out of the heat of being on show in the middle and put him in the Bunker, he’s very good at that and I hope he does the grand final from the Bunker.”
Klein copped heavy abuse on social media and Brent Read said he hoped the NRL was looking after him in the wake of the mistakes.
“It’s a hard one though because a good player has a shocker and they’re still picked in first grade the next week,” Read said.
“He’s had a bad game, and I agree he doesn’t deserve to be there, but it is really harsh on one bad game.
“I hope the NRL is looking after Ashley now as well because he copped a lot of flak on the weekend.”
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