NRL referees cop fierce backlash from millions, including respected voices in rugby league, and make match-defining calls in the huge shadows of 120-kilogram giants.
Veteran Ashley Klein, the whistleblower selected to referee the NRL grand final between the Panthers and Eels on Sunday night, has revealed the key to his mindset in tackling the blistering pressure.
“I understand that there’s massive pressure there, but at the end of the day I’ve just got to go out and adjudicate what I see in front of me,” Klein said on 2GB’s Wide World of Sports radio.
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“Once I make a decision, the thing is I can’t change it, unless there’s a captain’s challenge or an opportunity to use the Bunker. They’re the only options that (the call) can then be changed.
“So I can’t think about anything that’s happened because the next decision is actually ready to be made. So it’s important that all my mind is on what’s coming next. I think that’s the key. That’s what I’ve probably got better at as I’ve gotten old — move on to the next one, make the next one.
“Worrying about what decisions were made is what you do in a review … and how you’re coached to be better for the following week.
“So I can’t worry about what I’ve done. It’s all about that next decision — making sure I get that right.”
READ MORE: NRL grand final team lists
Klein has usurped Gerard Sutton as the game’s premier referee in 2022.
While Sutton was the referee for the entire 2021 State of Origin series and last season’s NRL grand final, Klein has won those appointments this year.
“Ashley has been one of our leading officials throughout 2022 and deserves to take charge of the premiership decider,” said NRL head of football Graham Annesley in a statement.
“Ashley refereed all three State of Origins and has been in very good form through the finals series.
“I’d like to congratulate all officials for what they have achieved in 2022.”
What time will the grand final start?
The grand final will kick off at 7.30pm (AEST).
What is the venue for the grand final?
The grand final will be played at Accor Stadium.
How to watch the grand final live and free
You can tune into Channel 9 and 92 to see the match being broadcast live and free on TV. Nine’s grand final day coverage will get underway with Sports Sunday at 10am (AEST), before The Sunday Footy Show begins at 11am (AEST). Grand final programming will resume on Nine at 6.30pm (AEST), immediately following 9News.
9Now provides a live and free stream of the match broadcast on Nine. Users will need to log in or create an account to access the stream.
Stream the NRL premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now
Grand final teams
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon 18. Sean O’Sullivan 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Sunia Turuva 22. Chris Smith
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Nathan Brown 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore 18. Bryce Cartwright 19. Makahesi Makatoa 20. Tom Opacic 21. Ofahiki Ogden 22. Ky Rodwell
Clive Churchill Medal
The award for the player judged man of the match, the Clive Churchill Medal, whips up plenty of interest every year.
By the books of Sportsbet, the top-five favourites to clinch the medal are Nathan Cleary ($3.00), Dylan Edwards ($8.00), Mitchell Moses ($8.00), Isaah Yeo ($11.00) and Clint Gutherson ($12.00).
Grand final match officials
Referee: Ashley Klein
Bunker official: Grant Atkins
Tough judges: Phil Henderson and Drew Oultram
Standby referee: Gerard Sutton
Standby touch judge: David Munro
The Panthers and Eels have squared off on three occasions this season, with Parramatta chalking up two wins and Penrith one.
Parramatta defeated Penrith 22-20 in round nine and 34-10 in round 20, before the Panthers hit back with a 27-8 victory in the qualifying final.
After claiming the minor premiership, the Panthers reached the grand final by defeating the Eels 27-8 in a qualifying final and beating the Rabbitohs 32-12 in a preliminary final.
After losing to the Panthers 27-8 in a qualifying final, the Eels thumped the Raiders 40-4 in a semi-final and edged the Cowboys 24-20 in a preliminary final.
Odds (by Sportsbet)
Grand final tickets
Recent NRL grand final history
2010: St George Illawarra Dragons 32 defeated Sydney Roosters 8
2011: Manly Sea Eagles 24 defeated Warriors 10
2012: Melbourne Storm 14 defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 4
2013: Sydney Roosters 26 defeated Manly Sea Eagles 18
2014: South Sydney Rabbitohs 30 defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 6
2015: North Queensland Cowboys 17 defeated Brisbane Broncos 16
2016: Cronulla Sharks 14 defeated Melbourne Storm 12
2017: Melbourne Storm 30 defeated North Queensland Cowboys 6
2018: Sydney Roosters 21 defeated Melbourne 6
2019: Sydney Roosters 14 defeated Canberra Raiders 8
2020: Melbourne Storm 26 defeated Penrith Panthers 20
2021: Penrith Panthers 14 defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Grand final entertainment line-up
– Jimmy Barnes with DIESEL, Joshua Teskey and Emma Donovan
– Sheldon Riley
– Bliss n Eso (featuring JOY.)
– Alinta Chidzey
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