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‘It is a tragedy’: Top NRL referee bows out as online abuse becomes too much

This Sunday, top NRL referee Matt Cecchin will become just the seventh person to hold the whistle for 300 first-grade games.

But news of Cecchin’s achievement has been clouded, with the veteran official announcing he’ll retire at the end of the season.

Not because he’s done with the game. But because he’s tired of the torrent of abuse he cops.

Matt Cecchin has told the Sydney Morning Herald he and his family received hundreds of death threats after a call he made during the World Cup semi-final last year.

The abuse he’s been subject to, for just doing his job, is so bad he’s needed to see sports therapists to deal with it.

He’s now enough and is stepping away.

Former NRL referee boss Greg McCallum says Cecchin’s departure is a “tragedy”.

“(He’s) one of the best referees, but more importantly, one of the best people I’ve ever met.

“It is a tragedy, as you’re saying, on the eve of celebrating a great milestone – 300 games – he’s made this decision and made it publically.”

Greg hopes budding referees won’t be scared of taking up the first-grade whistle, but says the job simply isn’t the same anymore.

“There’s just too much invested these days in the emotion of the game.

“It’s a tribal game but these days people sit at home, they don’t go out to vent their anxiety at the ground, they stay at home with their phone next to them.

“The poor old referees have nowhere to go.”

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