Reporter Hikurangi Jackson is investigating the rise in referee abuse in rugby, Stuff reveals. Spectator abuse almost forced Auckland club rugby league referee Joseph Green, 20, out of the game altogether. “30 people just pretty much abusing you… it’s a pretty daunting thing to face,” Green says. Retired NRL player Henry Perenara now referees in the NRL, and worries it will put off young referees at grassroots level. He says abuse at any level is unacceptable. Referee Jackson Reuben-Swinton, who has faced racist abuse and even death threats, agrees: “Behind the whistle … is actually a person who has feelings, who deals with mental health, who has kids that are on the sideline listening to the kōrero that is being said.”