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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 22/09/1991
Words: 820
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 3
Referee Bill Harrigan raised his hand in the flow of conversation after yesterday's decider to indicate just how close he was to sending off Mark Geyer.

The space between his index finger and thumb could best be described as minimal.

"There were a couple of times when I thought to myself 'Jeez, that was close'," Harrigan said when asked how near the windmill with legs was to a permanent vacation.

"You usually know in an instant if an act was worthy of dismissal and I didn't get that feeling."

Geyer got offside with Harrigan during his inspirational and enthusiastic performance, for his high tackling and general conduct.

His penalty was a 10-minute bin stint after he "went off" when Harrigan disallowed a Paul Smith try.

That enforced rest came after two earlier cautions, and Harrigan felt Geyer's brief dismissal helped Penrith in the end.

"He was a better player after being dismissed," Harrigan said.

"Before that he was carrying on with his arms all over the place and was tackling high.

"He was throwing comments around which were about me but not directly at me.

"In the end he had to go for dissension."

Harrigan admitted there were several occasions when Geyer went very close to crossing the send-off line.

He certainly looked to have crossed that line when he flattened Bradley Clyde with a high tackle in the 35th minute.

The incident happened in front of Harrigan and in clear view of his touch judge, but it was deemed not to warrant a send-off.

Geyer was cautioned two minutes later when Harrigan called in his touch judge to inquire into the matter, and while being spoken to, the player touched the referee.

Harrigan did not take kindly to the action.

"Geyer touched me on the hip a couple of times when I was chatting with him and I called him back and told him that was not on," the official said.

"It was just the way he was carrying on throughout the whole game. He was giving the appearance he was treating me like dirt to the crowd, and I don't let that sort of thing happen."

The reason Geyer lost his temper initially was because Smith's try was pulled back.

Harrigan admitted he was about to award the four-pointer before touch judge Martin Weekes ran in and halted play.

Weekes noticed a punch in the tackle on Mark Bell which had contributed to jolting the ball free.

Other controversies Harrigan was forced to deal with were caused by rule changes which came into force this season.

All season long, the fear has been that the grand final would be decided by a stealing-the-ball decision, and that worry looked to have come true in the 63rd minute.

With Brad Izzard set to score a try, Raiders' five-eighth Laurie Daley reefed the ball out of his arms on the try-line.

To the amazement of the crowd, Harrigan allowed the incident to pass without penalty.

"It was a legal steal," Harrigan explained. "The Canberra player was not attempting to make a tackle. He went in with the intention to grab the ball and nothing else and that is allowed."

The blood bin - or rather Harrigan's failure to use it - also caused a query.

When Clyde set up Matthew Wood's second try, it was obvious he had blood flowing from his mouth. Harrigan had noticed Clyde's injury earlier in the game, and had decided it was not bad enough to warrant a dismissal.

"It's up to the referee, and the rule says a player should be bleeding profusely before his dismissal is compulsory," he said.

Taking all the controversies into account, the ruling by the Referees Board that Harrigan had a "very good game" was somewhat difficult to swallow.

Harrigan, though, said he was pleased with how he went and his gut feeling after the match was that he had done a good job.

Tim Sheens, no doubt, would have issued him with a less favourable report.

But the Raiders coach refused to be drawn into comment over the referee, saying he did not want to detract from Penrith's moment of glory.

While Harrigan will come in for criticism, it was a tough match to control and it is doubtful any other referee would have put in a better performance.

Harrigan issued 13 penalties (8-5 Canberra) and contributed to an outstanding match through his free-flowing style.

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