Adam Woolnough blasts Real NRL referees

LAKES United marquee signing Adam Woolnough said yesterday he would not recommend playing in the Newcastle Rugby League to other former NRL stars because the referees do not do enough to protect players.

The former Knights, Panthers and Storm prop is unlikely to play rugby league again after suffering a major knee injury in what he described as a blatant ‘‘cannonball’’ tackle while playing against Cessnock on June 16.

The cannonball is an outlawed tackle in which a defender dives at the legs of a player who is being held upright by other defenders.

The 31-year-old suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a displaced patella in the tackle but a penalty was not given.

‘‘A lot of blokes my age are looking to go back and play local league, especially in a strong comp like this, to further their career opportunities close to footy,’’ Woolnough said.

‘‘The blokes I know in rugby league, I wouldn’t be recommending a place like the Real NRL.

‘‘It’s supposed to be the second- or third-best comp in Australia and the refereeing just doesn’t reflect that standard that everyone knows it should be.’’

After retiring from the NRL with Melbourne last season, the Singleton junior returned to Newcastle as Lakes United’s major off-season acquisition and started work at Xstrata’s Blakefield South coalmine.

Woolnough has not been able to work for the past month and is expected to be off for another fortnight. Insurance covers only loss of wages at $300 a week after the first 28 days.

‘‘As it stands now I’m not working because of the injury and that puts financial strain on the family. I’m married with a mortgage and a young fella, so at this stage I wouldn’t be thinking about playing next year purely because of the risk of injury,’’ Woolnough said.

‘‘It’s not worth it at this stage of my career and at my age.’’

Woolnough spoke with Newcastle Rugby League general manager John Fahey about the tackle three weeks ago and was subsequently invited to discuss the experience of being an NRL player returning to the city’s league in a think tank on August 1.

Fahey said many of the wrestling and other tactics used in the NRL to slow down the ruck were drifting into the Real NRL and referees were racing to keep up with the changes.

‘‘It’s something the guys are conscious of,’’ Fahey said.

‘‘Yes it does happen in the NRL as does the chicken wing and it is something that is probably creeping into our game and our officials need to be more aware of.’’

However, Fahey strongly disagreed with Woolnough’s opinion that referees did not match the quality of the competition.

‘‘I’d refute that on the basis that these instances are coming back out of the NRL and yes, there are areas we need to be mindful of,’’ he said.

‘‘But having said that, it’s not something they’re used to as it doesn’t normally happen.

‘‘There’s not much else we can ask in relation to that.

‘‘We don’t have the access to video like the NRL do, so it’s just a matter of them being diligent in relation to that.’’

If Woolnough does not play again next season he is unlikely to be lost entirely to the Seagulls.

Lakes president James McKinley said he wanted Woolnough to join the coaching staff.

‘‘He’s too good an asset to lose,’’ McKinley said.

‘‘He would be good in the coaching situation as a mentor, because a few of our young blokes in the under 18s are quite good, but they need a bit more guidance and he’s the sort of chap to do that.’’

Woolnough said he hoped to become involved in coaching at Lakes and even the Knights.

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