Johns' blue - the fallout The backlash from Andrew Johns' two-week suspension for verbally abusing a touch judge has the region's sporting hierarchy worried about the impact of the "lenient punishment" on impressionable juniors. Currently rated the world's greatest rugby league player, Johns reacted to referee Paul Simpkins' questionable decision against Newcastle with a barrage of profanities directed at Simpkins and touch judge Matt Cecchin. The NRL judiciary downgraded the contrary conduct charge from grade three to a grade two, allowing Johns to return after two weeks in time for the finals. But it is not just the behaviour of rugby league stars that has local club officials and referees up in arms. Macquarie Raiders secretary Paul Loxley has a long association with junior and senior sport, and has witnessed the effect that professional sportspeople's behaviour can have on players of all levels. "Over the years I've seen young players, junior and senior, replicate professional sports personalities, and that's why the judiciary need to come down on people such as Andrew Johns like a ton of bricks," Mr Loxley said. "Johns has a huge responsibility in all levels of the game, whether he's representing his club, state or country and is highly influential to all kids in sport. "You can't have players take on officials in any game - rugby league, tennis or soccer, and that's something young players need to learn from the start, without a referee there'd be no game and nobody is bigger than the game." Leading Group 11 referee Willie Barnes said his major concern was the effect the decision could have on recruiting referees to the game. "We're constantly trying to get people to join the refereeing ranks and copping abuse is the main fear that prevents people from joining," Mr Barnes said. "If offenders do get off lightly it tends to create a trend where people think they can get away with things." While he said that serious abuse rarely happens in the local Group 11 competition, the high media coverage expected to come with the involvement of someone like Johns reflects negatively on the position a referee holds in sport. President of the referees association Mark Kelly agreed that the judiciary's decision and Johns' reaction could affect the recruitment of referees. "We obviously can't condone what he's done," Mr Kelly said. "It's difficult enough nowadays to get referees, and when a high profile player behaves like that to an official it's discouraging to the younger kids considering refereeing because they see what they'll have to put up with."