CONTROVERSIAL former referee Steve Ganson has spoken for the first time about how he felt “aggrieved” by colleague Ashley Klein’s mistake that led to the first-ever Magic Weekend’s infamous conclusion.
It is now six years since “Gansongate” exploded in Cardiff following a highly-contentious, chaotic ending to Leeds Rhinos’ game with Bradford Bulls.
Jordan Tansey’s last-minute try helped give Leeds a 42-38 win after he followed up Kevin Sinfield’s penalty kick that rebounded off a post.
It should have been ruled out as replays clearly showed he had run from an offside position but Ganson, crucially, never consulted video referee Klein.
However, Bradford had also been incorrectly penalised in the first place after Klein – unprompted and against all protocol – told the match official down his earpiece he had made a wrong call by waving play-on.
In a highly-charged post-match press conference, furious Bulls coach Steve McNamara claimed Ganson had “made a penalty up to give Leeds a draw” and “cheated” his side out of victory.
The following day, when Bradford chairman Peter Hood bizarrely asked Leeds to hand back the two points, Ganson took the unusual step of making a public apology for the error.
He had no issue with that but, ahead of the seventh Magic Weekend which starts at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium today, admits how the whole affair caused him unease with his RFL work-mate.
“Naturally, I was very aggrieved with him (Klein) and really disappointed with what happened,” said Ganson, speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post. “He felt strongly enough to come in on a live play, which video refs aren’t allowed to do, but then got the decision wrong.
“As a ref, when you give a decision but then someone else – who is watching a video monitor with replays – tells you it’s wrong you’d hope you are getting the right information. But instead it was him who got it wrong.
“Let’s just say we weren’t bosom buddies afterwards. I won’t suggest for a minute he did it on purpose. It was just an error of judgement.
“I’m clearly seen on TV saying ‘play on’ and then changing that decision to ‘penalty’.
“Naturally, the first thought would be I’d made that decision. If not, then it must have come from a touch judge.
“But then when you go through the audio of the match – the Black Box of the game as it were – it becomes clear it is the video referee who intervened.
“It certainly set Magic Weekend off with a bang. Some people said it was all done for publicity but I can definitely say it wasn’t planned. What we have learned as a department though – the one thing to come out of it all – is that, as video referees, you can never give a decision on a live play.
“Some processes were put in play after that incident and it has never happened since.
“Every decision involving a video referee is now field-led by the referee.”
Ganson, no stranger to controversy after sending of Great Britain’s Adrian Morley after just 12 seconds of a Test match against Australia and also awarding a crucial penalty try in the 2008 World Cup Final, retired last month and now works for the RFL match officials department in a coaching capacity.
Ironically, he is based in an office at RFL headquarters in Leeds next door to McNamara who is now England head coach.
“I hear Steve was very hot and bothered under the collar that night (in Cardiff),” added Ganson. “Also, there’d been no major issues in the other games so I think the match commissioner Gerry Kershaw had left early to go get a meal.
“His wife rang telling him to get back quick and he was seen running through the streets of Cardiff.
“Obviously, I’m in an office next to Steve now but it’s not something he mentions every time I see him making a brew.
“He might have a little sly wink this week, though, if he sees me before Magic just to let me know he’s not 100 per cent forgotten.
“We met in the days after that match. Steve was initially very, very angry with why I’d overturned my original decision.
“But he found out there was various other factors contributing to it and so, by the time he met with me, Ashley and Stuart Cummings, he’d calmed down.”
Klein, meanwhile, returned to his native Australia in 2009 and is now a leading referee in the NRL.
Ganson continued: “No one at the RFL said I had to apologise but, as a referee, I’ve never been afraid to hold my hands up and say I was wrong.
“I was disappointed that the outcome of the game ended up in such a manner and could understand Bradford feeling like they did. Pretty soon after the final whistle I knew it was a major incident.
“With it being on Sky and with mobiles, of course, there was calls coming in from journalists and texts from mates and family. You didn’t have to be Einstein.
“I felt it was only right to say ‘Listen, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t done on purpose, it was just one of those things that was wrong.’
“He (Klein) made that call but, as referee, I was in charge.”
Ganson, who admits he is already missing the “buzz” of refereeing, says the surreal chain of events that occurred that night at Millennium Stadium contrived for the unique dramatic ending.
“A penalty hitting the post and someone running up to score off the rebound is something I’ve not seen happen since,” said the 43-year-old, who will be video referee at three games in Manchester this weekend.
“After I’d checked with the touch judges about the grounding I gave it. The last thing you were expecting was the runner to be offside.
“I’d be really naive to think that come nine o’clock Sunday night this weekend every referee’s had a fantastic game and there’s been no mistakes. That just wouldn’t be the sport.
“But hopefully they all do their best and contribute to what is a great weekend of rugby league.”