Stuart praises refs over NRL strip rule

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart praised the match officials after his team's win over Melbourne.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart praised the match officials after his team's win over Melbourne.

In what may be a first, Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has applauded the referees after Josh Hodgson's one-on-one strip helped seal their stunning NRL comeback win over Melbourne.

The Raiders mentor believed officials were placed under enormous pressure to police the stripping rule this weekend after it earned the ire of Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

Darren Lockyer on Sunday joined the chorus of disapproval over the interpretation introduced last year and turned into a fine art by the Raiders this season, describing it as "messy".

But Stuart - never one to shy away from criticising referees in the past - heaped praise on whistle blowers after wily hooker Hodgson's strip in the lead-up to Josh Papalii's 76th minute try that sealed the Raiders' stirring 22-18 AAMI Park win.

"I've got to applaud the referees," Stuart said.

"They have been under immense pressure this week in regards to the stripping rule.

"We got three there tonight and two were penalised.

"I have to look again to see if they were penalties. One definitely was, one I couldn't obviously hear if the referee had called held.

"But the one (strip) that we fairly and squarely got changes the game."

Robinson opposes the new interpretation which allows a one-on-one strip if other tacklers have fallen off after narrowly holding on to down Canberra last week.

He complained that it did not add to the spectacle of the game and only added more pressure on referees to police it.

Lockyer on Sunday admitted he was also not a fan.

"I think it gets messy," he told Nine Network.

"I like the contest and the unpredictability but I still think a one on one strip where you are the first and only guy in, I think we can still have that.

"But when we have three or four guys in and then guys drop off, I just think it looks messy."

Parramatta great Peter Sterling disagreed.

"I have no problem with the rule at all. There have been very, very few in regards to per game per weekend.

"And unless the opposition drops the ball or kicks it to you, how else do you get the football back?"

Australian Associated Press