Top ref punted after 16 years
NRL referee Gavin Badger has spoken about his shock axing, declaring there would be an emptiness when he steps away from the game after 16 years in the middle.
Badger said he had been targeted for letting the game flow in recent seasons and is disappointed he didn't get to show his skills under the new one referee system.
Badger was told earlier this year he would not be offered a spot as part of the NRL's 22 contracted match officials next year.
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He will end his career as the third most capped referee with 355 games, sitting behind Bill Harrigan (393) and Ben Cummins (382).
"When you've been involved in something for so long and so passionate about it and love doing it, no one wants to give up something like that or not have it there anymore," Badger said.
"It's like a dream come true to do what I do. As a rugby league fan I have the best seat in the house week in week out.
"I've had a bit of time to think about it. The sadness is gone. It's just about being positive about what I've done and what I've been able to do and people I've been able to meet."
Badger wanted to go on. He has not taken control of a match since the game reverted back to the one referee system, instead being relegated to patrolling the sideline.
"I feel like I'm the fittest I've ever been," Badger said.
"I'm still winning the fitness test in the squads.
"I know physically I can still do it. My strength as a referee has been my rapport with players and letting the game run. I love the new rules the commission brought in and if I was given the opportunity I would've excelled at that.
"Letting the game go too much was deemed my weakness in the last couple of years. Not being given the opportunity to show what I can do is a bit disappointing."
A young referee will be elevated into his spot. His wife Kasey, who is sidelined with a back injury, will remain as part of the referee ranks, posted a heartfelt message on her Twitter account praising her husband.
"This isn't how we thought it would end. It's not how you deserve for it to end. You deserve better,'' Kasey wrote.
One of the most popular referees to ever grace the field, Badger will run the line for what he believes will be the final time when Penrith play Canterbury on Saturday.
He has done some work mentoring young referees with the NSW Rugby League and wants to remain in a coaching capacity.
"I would've loved one final chance to grab the whistle," Badger said.
"The (positive) reaction has been really surprising. You're not meant to be liked as a referee. I'm a rugby league fan before I'm anything else."
BLUES FINEST HOUR
What has been your favourite NSW Origin moment? Was it when Michael O'Connor kicked a conversion from the sideline in the pouring rain to break Queensland hearts in 1991? Was it when eighth Immortal Andrew Johns tore the Maroons to shreds in 2005?
The NSW Rugby League has compiled the top 40 moments to celebrate 40 years of Origin with only 40 days to go until Origin I.
The moments were selected and put into order by historians David Middleton and Terry Williams. The no.1 moment will be revealed just hours before the Blues run onto Adelaide Oval on November 4.
"State of Origin is the pinnacle of our game and there has been no shortage of highlights from NSW players over the past 40 years," said NSWRL chief executive David Trodden.
"It was an extremely enjoyable process to go back over every game since the concept first started in 1980 but also extremely difficult to limit NSW moments to only 40."
The moments will be posted on the Blues' social media platforms.
HERE TO STAY
South Sydney outside back Steven Marsters has been rewarded for his strong debut season with the 20-year-old agreeing to a new one year deal with the club. Marsters thought his rugby league career was over when Wayne Bennett summonsed him to his office earlier this year with the super coach threatening to sack Marsters because of his lack of dedication. But he got his career back on track, impressing in his five matches for the club and agreeing to extend his stay by at least another season.
HEAVY PRICE TO PAY
Manly received a six figure payout from the Warriors to clinch Addin Founa-Blake as the Sea Eagles move to lock in their replacement for the Tongan international.
It is understood the Warriors paid about $100,000 to the Sea Eagles in order for Founa-Blake to break out of the final two years of his deal.
The transfer won't be included in the Warriors salary cap for next year, but will come out of the club's football club salary cap.
The Warriors signed Founa-Blake to a three-year deal.
The Sea Eagles have moved quickly to lockup their starting front-row replacement by signing big man Taniela Paseka to a monster four-year deal.
Paseka, 22, already had a year left on his contract but the Sea Eagles have extended his contracted by another three, keeping him at the club until at least the end of 2024. Manly have identified Paseka as the man to partner Marty Taupau in the front-row following Founa-Blake's shock decision to quit the club. The Sea Eagles have signed Parramatta back-rower Andrew Davey and have joined the Bulldogs and the Warriors in the race for Penrith firebrand Jack Hetherington.
The only NRL club still eyeing Benji Marshall is Cronulla.
Marshall will play his last game as a Tiger on Saturday night but his NRL future beyond that remains uncertain.
One thing that is for sure is that Marshall won't be Belmore bound.
The Bulldogs have committed to veteran Blake Green - unless he walks away from the deal because of his knee injury. The Bulldogs are also keeping a close eye regarding what is going on at Penrith.
Marshall would be a good fit at the Sharks on a cut-priced one year deal if he wants to play on next year.
Cronulla are tight in the cap but Marshall has a relationship with Sharks coach John Morris after the pair spent time playing alongside each other at the Tigers more than a decade ago. Marshall would also offer cover after injuries to Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan.
Moylan's hamstring is an ongoing concern while Johnson is no guarantee to start the season after rupturing his Achilles last Saturday night. Johnson was Cronulla's best this year but Moylan has reportedly been shopped around by the club as he heads into the final year of his rich deal.
Outside of the Sharks, options for Marshall in Sydney look bleak. The 35-year-old will run out alongside teammate Chris Lawrence for the last time when the Tigers play the Eels on Saturday night.
Lawrence and Marshall will be keen to score with the pair sitting on top of the Tigers tryscorers tally with 84. Whoever holds the record won't keep it for long though with winger David Nofoaluma closing in with 74 tries.
Former teammate Robbie Farah, the Tigers most capped player, will make a presentation to the duo after the game.
It has been 29 years since a finals campaign did not feature a Queensland side - and the Cowboys weren't even around. Brisbane and Gold Coast failed to make the finals in 1991 and this year the three Queensland sides have missed out on a finals appearance for the first time in almost three decades.
TIGHTENING THE BELT
Only four clubs will need to curb their spending when a revamped football cap comes in next year. The commission is expected to sign off on Friday on the reduction in the football club spend cut by $1.2 million to $5 million. Clubs were told on Wednesday that only four would need to make changes to be under the cap. Welfare spending - about $150,000 - has been taken out of the football cap.
So dominant has Zac Lomax been for the Dragons this year he is on the verge of having the highest per centage of points scored for his club this year in the past 26 years. Lomax has amassed 47.1 per cent of St George Illawarra's points this year - the highest of any player since Canterbury winger Daryl Halligan in 1994. Halligan scored 270 of the Bulldogs' 568 points for 47.5 per cent.
If the Raiders and Sharks meet in week one of the finals, it will be the eighth time in the NRL era teams have played each other in the final round and in the first week of the finals.
Nobody is quite sure if it is the Mad Professor playing with beakers and test tubes, but Manly coach Des Hasler plans to play Kieran Foran at dummy-half next season, despite rumours Cade Cust is headed for the No.9 jersey in 2021.
The Sea Eagles came up desperately short at dummy half this season when hooker Manase Fainiu was stood down by the NRL, pending criminal charges, shortly after the Sea Eagles released Api Koroisau to Penrith.
Hasler and Foran have a strong link - it was Hasler who recruited Foran to Canterbury - and Hasler has no doubt he could reinvent Foran as a quality dummy-half.
Gold Coast Titans Ambassador Gorden Tallis has had a nervous week cheering the improving Titans home, but not as nervous as his Triple M league caller Anthony Maroon.
Way back at the start of the season Tallis tipped a good year for Gold Coast and Maroon made the outlandish comment that if the Titans won five in a row "I'll get a sex change".
Everything looked safe for a while, but the Titans have now won four in a row and play Newcastle on Friday night.
Workmates have been sending Maroon pics of former American tennis star Billie Jean King, saying he looks great.
KEEP FIGHTING TOMMY
You can't keep a good man down.
He may have his cancer battles, but NSW Origin legend Tommy Raudonikis is still soldiering on and keeping in touch with the many good people in grassroots rugby league.
Tommy stopped into Gibson Park on Brisbane's northside last weekend to take part in a day of celebration for Brothers Old Boys.
The Old Boys paid tribute to legendary trained Jimmy Johnson, who strapped Brothers players for 40 years, sometimes doing four teams in one day.
Raudonikis coached Brothers in the 1980s and was on hand to present jerseys. Despite his health condition, Tommy plans to take a Kangaroos supporters' tour to the UK for next year's World Cup.
Tim Tszyu is Australia's new boxing king but the son of Kostya is having trouble find his next opponent.
Having easily disposed of Jeff Horn, Tszyu was due for a December showdown with either Dennis Hogan, Michael Zerafa or Daniel Lewis, the only man to have beaten him at the amateur level.
But Hogan is set to lock in a fight in America in October, while Zerafa is keen to fight Anthony Mundine in Bendigo in November, leaving Lewis as Tszyu's possible next opponent.
Originally published as Farewell Badge: Top ref punted after 16 years