Veteran rugby league referee Ben Cummins has opened up about his infamous mistake during the 2019 NRL grand final, confessing he felt “ashamed” and “worthless” after the incident.
Scores were tied at 8-8 late in the second half of the decider between the Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders when Cummins called “six again” after a Raiders attacking kick came off one of their players.
Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton grabbed the ball and charged into the defensive line believing it was the first tackle of the set, but Cummins reversed his call as the tackle was being made, meaning Canberra had to hand over the Steeden.
Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Moments later, Sydney fullback James Tedesco dived over to give the Roosters a 14-8 lead at Sydney Olympic Park.
It was undeniably a major turning point in the contest.
“I realised I stuffed up big time and I tried to correct the call – which would have been the right call,” Cummins said.
“But Jack Wighton didn’t see that and he got tackled and the Roosters get the ball and go down the length of the field in the next set and score.
“I realised then that this was big at eight-all in a grand final.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this.
“I walked into the tunnel and cameras were all on me … my heart sunk.”
Referee mistakes are not uncommon, and Cummins inevitably copped a tsunami of abuse from disgruntled rugby league fans for the error; even Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe joined the pile-on.
But the veteran referee, who has officiated more than 400 NRL games, has also revealed his teenage daughters were targeted after the ordeal.
“When you sign up to referee at the top level, you know that it comes with fans who are passionate, and people can say things about your performance,” he explained.
“But when it brings in your family and your home, it’s sort of to a different level. I found that really hard.
“I cant say it was easy for them. My son was copping a lot of abuse at school and my daughters (were) online – because they are on social media. That was really tough.
“I basically locked myself in my house for a week.
“It was pretty dark times. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I had some thoughts about what I wanted to do with my life and they were pretty negative.
“You feel ashamed and worthless, embarrassed. I wasn’t sleeping. I just wanted everything to go away.”
Radio presenter Gus Worland, founder of mental health charity Gotcha4Life, spoke to Channel 9 about the importance of mental strength among Australian men after former Queensland coach Paul Green was found dead in his Brisbane home on Thursday morning, the day after his son’s ninth birthday.
“It was so sad to hear this morning about Green,” he said on Thursday evening.
“This is a line in the sand moment for us as sport and us as a nation to say, ‘Enough is enough’.
“Let’s stop talking about awareness, let’s put some action into place.
“It’s all about manning up and speaking up now, Not manning up and shutting up, which is what we’ve been told all our lives to do.
“This is an opportunity to build some emotional muscle, put you hand up if you need some help and support. That’s the bravest thing you can do.
“Why are we so good in this country at helping people, but not good at asking for help?
“It’s so brave to be vulnerable.”