The 13-year-old boy who sparked the NRL's investigation into Sharks fourth-tackle controversy

The NRL admits the Sharks were dudded as a result of the refereeing gaffe.

Meet the father and son footy tragics who uncovered the major tackle count blunder that could lead to an NRL referee's axing. Danny Angelo and his 13-year-old boy Marley were tucking into a supreme pizza while watching Friday night's Cronulla-Gold Coast clash from Coffs Harbour when Marley picked up an anomaly during a Sharks' attacking set.

The league-mad teenager noticed referee Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski raise his arm for the fifth tackle when only four tackles had been completed. The call came with Cronulla right on the Titans' line and down 12-0 early in the second half.

Pictured left to right, 13-year-old NRL fan Marley Angelo and Cronulla playing the Gold Coast.
13-year-old NRL fan Marley Angelo noticed the refereeing blunder that resulted in a four-tackle set for Cronulla against the Gold Coast. Pic: Supplied/Fox League

The ref's incorrect signal clearly rattled the Sharks, with Braydon Trindall putting in a hurried bomb that Gold Coast easily defused before taking the ball to the 20m line for a seven-tackle set. Cronulla went on to lose 20-16 – their fifth defeat in six starts.

The incident may have gone undetected had Marley not insisted his dad have a closer look at the controversial set. "Marley was watching the game with me on the lounge and he said 'Dad, I think that's only four tackles'," Danny, a Sydney air conditioning installer, told Yahoo Sport Australia.

"We looked up at the screen and it had four tackles on it but I thought maybe they'd made a mistake. But Marley kept insisting it was a short set so we re-wound it a few times and counted the tackles.

NRL fan Danny Angelo contacted the Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie to inform him of the referee blunder that dudded the Sharks against the Titans. Pic: Getty/Supplied
NRL fan Danny Angelo contacted the Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie to inform him of the referee blunder that dudded the Sharks against the Titans. Pic: Getty/Supplied

"I'd had a couple of 'Southo' and Cokes by then and thought he might have been making it up, but sure enough he was right - there was definitely only four tackles in it. That's when I got in touch with Dean Ritchie at the (Daily) Telegraph and the story took off from there."

On the back of the publicity garnered by the Angelos' detective work, the NRL launched an investigation as Przeklasa-Adamski fights to retain his position for next weekend's round of matches. The NRL's head of football Graham Annesley revealed there were no mitigating circumstances, admitting the Sharks had been dudded.

"It's a really unusual one and did receive some publicity over the weekend," he said. "The referee verbalises 'fourth tackle' and for a reason that even (he) can’t even explain – obviously a lapse in concentration – he raises his arm in the air indicating fifth tackle.

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"So he's calling fourth tackle but indicating fifth tackle. I can't explain it, the referee can't explain it. He feels terrible about it. It's an error and no one is hiding from that. No one is trying to excuse it or make excuses for it." Przeklasa-Adamski will learn his fate on Tuesday afternoon when referee appointments for round 19 are released.