The review system is flawed. Let’s look to rugby for the answer

spruce moose Roar Guru

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    The current review policy of making referees guess ‘try’ or ‘no-try’ seriously limits the capacity of the bunker and is leading to some genuinely embarrassing calls, while allowing the on-field referees to pass the buck on anything difficult.

    The NRL bunker is a waste of money and time.

    The Manly vs Penrith game was a prime example of the bunker failing. If you look at the Tyrone Peachey try as a standalone, entirely isolated incident, then objectively, you’d have to be happy with the Bunker’s decision to award a try.

    There was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Peachey touched the ball with his hand.

    Of course, conversely, if the on-field ref had said ‘no try’, then we would have been happy with the Bunker saying ‘no try’ as there was no conclusive evidence Peachey didn’t touch the ball!

    Problem number one right there.

    The ref guesses and the Bunker, under the current system, basically can’t do much to counter a guess. Instead, it can only validate it.

    This is a guess, not a decision.

    When looking at the Peachey incident in the greater scheme of the match, problem number two emerges. There was definitely no conclusive evidence to overturn the Peachey try, so it stood, but then there was also no conclusive to overturn the Walker try, and yet they did.

    Nathan Cleary Penrith Panthers NRL Rugby League 2017

    (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

    Problem number three (and my biggest bugbear) is looking at decisions of referees at large, and not just come try time. Had that Peachey incident occurred mid-field, there is no doubt in my mind (and I reckon all of yours) that a referee would have blown immediately and ruled a knock-on.

    It was only because Peachey was near the try line that the ref allowed play to continue and make a decision. This happens a lot, it’s just ridiculous and exposes the game to embarrassment (as if the combined week one finals attendance being lower than one AFL game isn’t embarrassing enough).

    Fortunately, the solution is simple and is in use by rugby – the on-field refs are part of the video review. Rugby union have nailed this. While there still may be the odd mistake or the odd “how can he possibly see that?” moment, the system works extremely well and keeps accountability on the on-field refs – where it belongs.

    The philosophy of the video review system in rugby is simple. It’s not an escape option for the on-field refs, it’s an assistance tool for them to make the right decision in conjunction with the video referee and the touch judges. There are no guesses, the ref consults.

    I can’t see any reason why the NRL can’t “adopt” that system.

    The NRL is already famous for lifting ideas at will from the NFL – the bunker being a prime example.

    The current system doesn’t work. It’s embarrassing. It’s an exercise in passing the buck. We want the on-field refs to make decisions, let’s tip our caps to rugby, acknowledge they have a much better system to deal with this, and adopt it before the grand final to give the responsibility back to the on-field refs.

    More importantly, let’s stop guessing.

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