15 Oct 2011

Smith lambasts choice of referee ahead of Kangaroos clash

6:26 am on 15 October 2011

The New Zealand rugby league hardman Jeremy Smith has slammed the decision to appoint English referee Phil Bentham for Sunday's one-off Test against Australia in Newcastle.

Smith fears Bentham's appointment could mean the game descends into the type of bash, barge and wrestling affair that encouraged the NRL to adopt two referees and speed the game up.

The Cronulla second-rower went as far as calling for Australian referees to take control of the biggest international fixtures.

And despite his reputation as one of the game's tough guys, Smith says he's no fan of the tradition of letting players get away with more foul play on the international stage.

Both coaches signalled their intentions for the Newcastle fixture early when they picked monster benches, with New Zealand's Fuifui Moimoi, Sika Manu and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves ready to face off with aggressive Aussie rookies Keith Galloway and Tony Williams.

But Smith insists the players didn't look at the looser interpretations of the rules as a chance to push the boundaries in tackles.

Smith has enjoyed a well-earned break since Cronulla failed to make the finals this year, giving him time to rest after seven seasons of long campaigns involving finals football with Melbourne and later St George Illawarra.

The same cannot be said for Warriors captain Simon Mannering, who will be lining up for his 30th match of the season on Sunday.

But Mannering, who continues to battle a knee complaint, insists he is still fresh enough to take on a Four Nations campaign as fellow NRL stars withdraw from the Kiwis and Australian squads.