GROUP Nine first grade referee Ben Whitby believes respect for match officials in the Riverina is "generally pretty good", but believes constant criticism and detailed analysis of decisions at the top level can filter down to the grassroots.
Whitby, 30, has been refereeing or running a touch line since he was 13 and said while local referees' relationship with clubs and players is strong, the huge focus currently on NRL match officials is "way over the top".
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is under review after confronting referees in a heated debate at halftime during Sunday's loss to Canberra.
Crucial forward passes calls from the weekend have also come under intense scrutiny.
"Sometimes the level of focus they put on it is way over the top," Whitby said.
"Constructive criticism is welcomed but constant highlighting and dissection of decisions in the NRL is at an all time high.
"They (NRL) have had plenty of instances where referees on the fringe of the main squad have knocked back a full-time contract because they don't want to do it, they don't want that pressure on them."
The Daily Advertiser reported in June the Country Rugby League was investigating an alleged case of crowd abuse involving a 14-year-old female touch judge at a Group Nine match.
The offender was later issued a warning.
"She's a resilient young lady and she's still refereeing thankfully," Whitby said.
"Across the board it's pretty good, we don't have a lot of big incidents and there will always be the odd thing.
"But I've heard in other areas some untoward things do happen, and involving kids refereeing kids games which doesn't help anyone.
"I've never seriously thought about giving it away but I've had my moments where I have thought about it because of it (criticism).
"But every year you get the bug back because you love the game.
"There are other groups that are really struggling for referees, and I'm sure this type of thing doesn't help."