The NRL has announced the game will bring in a third on-field referee in order for a trio to rule via majority decision on key moments in games.
The third referee will be known as the zipper referee, to go with the main referee, and pocket referee, as well as video referee and touch judges.
The move, announced by NRL CEO Dave Smith, was agreed after a meeting between Channel Nine, NRL officials and NRL players, looking to further boost the game’s spectacle on live TV.
The Roar understands former player and NRL coach Phil ‘Gus’ Gould was instrumental in the new agreement, with key peaks in Nine’s viewership occurring during his exciting rants at referee rulings, and point-filled arguments with legendary caller Ray ‘Rabs’ Warren.
Sam ‘Third Man’ Thaiday was the chief representative from the NRL players, with a significant push for the ‘third man’ style of officiating coming from that camp.
“I’ve always been a fan of being the third man in, so I am a big fan of this initiative,” Thaiday said.
The ‘Zipper’ is expected to generally roam through play, with the spectacle of having another official on the ground for players to avoid acting as sort of ’14th man’ in attack.
‘Zipper’ will also wear a different fluorescent colour – mixing the main referee and pocket referee pinks with a bright green. This should help players feel more accustomed to colours akin to nightclubs such as The Ivy, where players are often found, even on game days.
Touch judge salaries will also be halved, will NRL CEO Dave Smith saying “I haven’t yet seen them make any change to the game in the two games I’ve watched this season – which is still one and a half games more than the average NRL fan, given crowd numbers thus far”.
Touch judges must also have passed the American Bar Exam, to ensure their judge status is at least partly credible.
A final change to the match adjudicating was made by Smith, with the whistle now to be blown more regularly in order to attempt to convert rugby union fans who are used to constant stoppages due to scrums collapsing for up to five minutes and a range of confusing penalties.
The NRL also noted that moves to increase conversions to three points, bringing the rule in line with that in rugby union, was rejected.
It was deemed that the rule, while initially popular, would result in too many teams trying to play resurrected or cloned versions of Hazem el Masri or Eric Simms.
There would also be increased temptation among NRL clubs to convert rugby union stars such as Morne Steyn or Jonny Wilkinson, resulting in undesirable and complex changes to the NRL’s pension plans.