SAM Thaiday is one of the most popular rugby league players in Queensland.
He is captain of the highest-profile club in the game and has played in 17 of the 21 matches in Queensland's seven successive Origin series wins.
And that is exactly why he had to be charged for grabbing the jersey of referee Adam Devcich last weekend.
Had he not been indicted, those administering our game would have been seriously derelict in their duty.
I have no doubt that neither Thaiday nor Luke Bailey meant any harm to the referees they accosted, and their actions were in no way threatening.
But every player, fan and - most importantly - every junior playing our game, needs to understand that a referee is absolutely sacrosanct.
If Thaiday was made a scapegoat by the administrators, then that is an unfortunate twist of fate for him and the Broncos.
But, as one of the most-liked figures in the game - especially among kids - it was an opportunity to make a statement that the game could not miss.
While rugby league is far from perfect, unruly crowd behaviour and absolute respect for the on-field authorities is a culture that has never diminished. It is a huge positive we have over some other codes.
But in saying that, since the advent of the video referee more and more players have been remonstrating with the referee.
And this season, with the obstruction rule extremely subjective, it seems just about every try is greeted with a player giving advice to the man in charge, either through his actions or his voice.
To my dismay - and displeasure - I have witnessed players charge towards a referee, getting right in his face.
This is simply not on, and must be stamped out at any cost, and pronto.
The Broncos received a bum call in the scrum incident that led to Thaiday protesting to the referee.
But 1.165 million TV viewers then watched the encounter between Thaiday and the referee, many of them future NRL players.
If the Broncos captain was seen to get off scott free, what kind of message would have been sent to those kids?
Hopefully Sam's suspension, and the week-long publicity, has sent an explicit memo to everyone.
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