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Ref meets with fan after death threat

In the same week NRL forward Josh McGuire copped vile social media abuse, English Super League referee Robert Hicks has been hailed for dealing with a death threat on Twitter by meeting the culprit face-to-face.

In what may yet become a test case for the NRL, a Warrington supporter has escaped with a suspended ban after agreeing to speak with Hicks following a disturbing tweet.

Police initially began an investigation after Hicks forwarded the Wolves supporter's claim that the referee would be "shot dead live on TV" following a recent Challenge Cup clash in the UK.

However, Hicks later offered to host a mediation meeting also attended by Warrington CEO Karl Fitzpatrick and the police which the supporter remarkably agreed to attend.

It is believed to be the first time such a meeting has been organised in rugby league.

"I don't want anyone to think I'm making light of this. The incident caused significant worry and upset to my family," Hicks told BBC Sport.

"But having discussed the matter with Karl and also the police, we thought we could make a more effective point by meeting face to face with the individual concerned.

"Although it was a difficult experience for all of us, I think we all left the room thinking it had been a worthwhile exercise."

Fitzpatrick hailed Hicks for his initiative.

"Robert deserves a lot of credit for responding in this way and we were happy to play our part," he said.

"We're not the only club who has had to tackle this sort of issue this season and I think the vast majority of supporters would concede that the levels of abuse that match officials have to receive is unfair.

"We want more people to want to become match officials and that's only going to happen if we change the culture through the game and make it clear that they have to be treated with respect."

It is a timely issue in the NRL after it was revealed the Cowboys had thrown their support behind McGuire following social media abuse over a three-game NRL ban for rubbing his hand into the face of Brisbane's David Fifita last round.

It prompted a passionate plea for understanding from McGuire's wife Tanyssa.

"He has been receiving death threat upon death threat. Countless threats of the most unthinkable things," she posted on social media.

"Mental health is constantly being spoken about within the NRL and yet what I am witnessing is the absolute bashing of a man who can only take so much before that thick skins starts to soften."