Warriors sponsor ‘cheating of the highest order’ bunker saga takes yet another unexpected turn
The chief executive of the Warriors’ major sponsor has withdrawn an accusation against NRL referees of “cheating of the highest order” but says he has yet to hear from head office as they look to investigate his comments.
Jason Paris, CEO of telco One NZ, went on a social media rampage during the Warriors’ 18-6 Magic Round loss, accusing officials of conspiring against the Kiwi club.
The Warriors were perplexed by referee Todd Smith’s decision to overlook a possible high tackle on captain Tohu Harris from Panthers enforcer Moses Leota.
Adding to their frustrations was the fact the Warriors also had rookie Demitric Sifakula (striking) and Jackson Ford (hip-drop tackle) sent to the sin bin.
“Are you kidding me?” he wrote. “How biased are the @NRL bunker and referees against the @NZWarriors? Have they got money on them to lose? It’s like we are permanently against 14 on the field and they want us to play with 12.
“It’s absolutely outrageous and so incredibly frustrating. Imagine how the team feel – three games in 11 days and then this rubbish. Cheating of the highest order.
“We are not chasing a one off premiership this year. It’s about building the foundations for multiple years of success that the @NRL referees cannot ignore. They are absolutely biased towards the clubs that have the legacy of success. That will be us soon.”
In response to a punter, he invoked last week’s game against the Roosters, which also saw a Bunker controversy when Sitili Tupouniua was not binned for an alleged shoulder charge, only to score moments later.
“It’s tough to watch,” wrote Paris. “For the last two weeks we have had players receiving clear & direct shots to the head, it was reviewed and cleared by the bunker.
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“Last week against the roosters that same player then scored a try against us soon after (admittedly it was a great try) and then yesterday same thing at a crucial time and it would been a momentum swing for us, but instead we lose two players for ten minutes for very marginal calls. It’s the inconsistency that drives me crazy.”
Paris is the CEO of One New Zealand, the largest mobile phone network in the country and a title sponsor of the Warriors in 2023.
On Monday, Paris said he did not believe referees were actively working against the Warriors, but said the club wasn’t getting the rub of the green.
“I don’t think that the NRL refs are cheats, no one comes onto the field to do that,” Paris told SEN NZ.
“But you can’t argue with some of these inconsistencies against the Warriors and it happens every single week.
“It is so frustrating when the team is performing better than they have for quite some time that the momentum is being stopped in games because, I think, of unfair or inconsistent decisions.”
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo lashed Paris’ commentary as he confirmed an investigation was underway.
“We will do everything possible to protect our match officials and the game,” he said in a statement provided to AAP. “Questioning their integrity is completely unacceptable.
“We are currently exploring all our options and will take whatever steps we believe are necessary to defend them.”
But the Warriors sponsor said he hadn’t received any correspondence from League Central.
Paris said his major frustration was that the bunker hadn’t picked up on Leota’s hit on Harris.
“When you’ve got high definition video footage that you’re watching in slo-mo and the NRL has been clear on what their ruling is … all you can expect is consistency and I don’t think that the Warriors are getting that,” he said.
Paris said he was glad to have started a debate about how officials were adjudicating the Kiwi club’s games.
“This is just a passionate fan calling it out as I see it,” he said.
“I’m hoping that it will help get some consistent calls for the Warriors when they’re playing because I’m not seeing it often enough at the moment.”