Should the Bunker be allowed to rule on forward passes?

Mr X Roar Guru

By Mr X, Mr X is a Roar Guru

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62 Have your say

    Only a penalty goal separated the Panthers and Roosters with just eight minutes to play, when Luke Keary scooted across the field, linking up with Latrell Mitchell, who found space out wide. Then came that pass.

    And we know the rest.

    A week earlier, the NRL had come under scrutiny for an even worse decision, when Jordan Kahu crossed to level things up at Suncorp Stadium against the Cowboys, off what was described by many outraged social media users as a “Tom Brady special” from James Roberts.

    Yet, this time, the Panthers were not good enough to make up for referee’s mistake and fell 14-12.

    Only hours after the game, NRL Referees’ boss, Tony Archer, came out and admitted they had made a mistake. The pass was forward.

    But how was Archer able to conclusively rule this? Surely the Bunker’s technology played some part in accurately proving it? So, should the Bunker rule on forward passes?

    If this $2 million command system has the benefit of multiple camera angles and zoom technology, why can’t it see forward passes, especially those as clear-cut as the one on Saturday night?

    And this is where the debate gets interesting: how can you decide which forward passes are clear cut and which are not? It seems like the fuss just isn’t worth it.

    The main rebuttal against such a change is the difficulty of ruling forward passes – you know, the ones that are not as obvious, yet can still have a large bearing on the final result.

    Determining whether a pass is forward is a complicated process. It doesn’t simply involve comparing where the player threw the ball with where it landed, many variables need to be considered, including speed, the spin of the ball, momentum and camera angles.

    Momentum is particularly important. If a player is running forwards, then, obviously the ball is also carrying that forward momentum. Camera angles can also be very deceptive, and trying to get your head around all of this can get confusing, hence how long it takes the Bunker to make the correct call. The Bunker was introduced to save time, not add to it!

    So, even as a Penrith tragic, the system as is has to stay: the Bunker cannot rule on forward passes.

    But I am intrigued to find out what Roarers think. Should the Bunker rule on forward passes?

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    The Crowd Says (62)

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2017 @ 2:21pm
      M.O.C. said | March 20th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

      Union uses video to determine of passes are forward and it seems to work just fine, so why not in League?

    • March 20th 2017 @ 3:25pm
      Rob said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

      I think it’s like a knock on and we have to leave it up to the officials to make the call. I think if the Ref feels it’s worth a look in the scoring of the try then i happy for bunker to rule on the obvious. In this instance it was obvious.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 3:46pm
      Souths Yobbo said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

      I have been quoted before at this site (from a comment I had posted on the SMH) about a spectacular try scored out on the wing, though the try was scored, but I had said that ball was actually passed forward to that player who had scored.

      The current ruling is based on how position of the ball carrier hands and shoulders are in relation to the pass, as long as it is looked to be passed back, it is classed as being passed legitimately.

      I firmly believe you can detect a pass that was passed forward, even considering several factors such as the speed players are running which allows the ball to continue in a forward momentum when the ball is passed.

      You can do this in very simple steps.

      1/ The position of the ball carrier to that of the receiver before the ball leaves the ball carriers hand. Using the position of the 10m lines, you can see roughly in what position each player is to that line.

      2/ The speed of the two players that are involved are running compared to each other.

      3/ The location of the receiver when he first touches the ball in relation to that of the ball carrier.

      Using the three points of reference above you can determine how the pass was projected. If I had the ability on creating videos on describing the physics of what constitutes a forwards pass using the above three points of reference, it would be better to grasp to see it being playing then describing it in words.

      It is possible to do, but what we would also need is to have more camera’s available to see what has happened. We will need to have the following.

      On each side of the field, starting from end of the field you need a camera located at the

      Ground Level – viewing the Side Line (Current)
      Ground Level – Dead-ball Line
      Ground Level – Try Line
      Higher View – 20m Line
      Higher View – Halfway Line (Current)
      Higher View – 20m Line
      Ground Level – Try Line
      Ground Level – Dead-ball Line
      Ground Level – viewing the Side Line (Current)

      Times this by 2 for each side of the ground, you will have 18 camera angles which are fixed, plus Spider-Cam and roving on-field camera. 20 cameras all up, of which 30-40% of them may not need to be physically manned if need be.

      Having access to all these cameras, you should be able to determine any forward pass from these angles, and also having reverse angles for reviews and any other possible indiscretions or views for TV coverage. The are many times where we see things on the opposite side of the ground which are purposely hidden from the camera view from sneaky tactics form players and such.

      The whole issue is the game is now moving as such a speed that the on-field refs cannot simply keep an eye on everything from their viewpoint. Sideline officials seem to be useless, as no-one knows what their responsibilities are to the game. Are they assisting with the monitoring of the 10m, looking at possible forward passes, or are they just watching the ball coming over the sideline?

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 4:29pm
        Mr X said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

        Wow Souths Yobbo you clearly have very good knowledge! Ever thought of working for the bunker?

      • March 20th 2017 @ 8:17pm
        Mushi said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

        But you’ve still got it judged by sight you’re basically going to need something like a fighter pilot in the bunker to get that right.

        Plus you’d actually need way more fixed cameras to stop the visual distortion. If we go the positions your talking I’d guarantee a material error rate.

        Monitoring the receiver to me just adds a variable to get wrong. The only reliable review would be the ball and where it goes immediately leaving the hands everything else is visual noise

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2017 @ 8:28pm
          Mr X said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

          It certainly is a very complicated process hence the need to get it exactly right if anything was to be trialled.

          • March 20th 2017 @ 8:49pm
            Mushi said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

            It’s not complicated, it’s destined for failure because the inputs will be rubbish.

            There is no way the above process works using just eye ball reviews to provide conclusive evidence to over rule on field.

            Speed guns have a margin of error, what chance does a human have of accuracy with one player accelerating, one decelerating, a trick of the mind with a camera angle and guessing the wind.

            Basically you’re down to the same gut feel the ref had which, outside of howlers, means it will rarely be of use.

            • Roar Guru

              March 20th 2017 @ 8:55pm
              Mr X said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

              That is true, sometimes technology can’t do it all for us. You’re definitely right on that.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 8:40pm
        Mushi said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

        Also the speed thing is a major issue, first is the accuracy of the eye test getting the exact speed (I’m guessing that’s terrible) then you need to factor in that the passer probably decelerates after they pass whilst the receiver accelerates onto the ball.

        Whilst the physics is “simple” it relies on valid inputs

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2017 @ 9:13pm
          The Barry said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

          Agreed. The sudden deceleration of the passer leads to the most calls of forward pass.

          The Edrick Lee pass on Sunday is a good example. He definitely threw the ball backwards out of the hands but was tackled as he passed it. The ball was caught forward relative to Lee’s body position and the refs called it forward.

          I’m sure if he threw the same ball while running it would never have been called forward.

          You see the same thing when the passer is crunched and momentum immediately stopped, they’ll always get called forward.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 3:58pm
      70s Mo said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

      Have a couple of moving Hawkeye systems. … look it is ridiculous, there are 4 officials for goodness sakes. Let them decide

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 4:25pm
        Mr X said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

        Totally agree, touchies are paid for this reason but yet they can still get it so horribly wrong. Of course referees are not exempt from mistakes.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 4:57pm
      arthur rightus said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

      It would help if refs, touchies, commentators & fans actually knew what constitutes a forward pass. I urge everyone to have a look at the following link.

      Just because the ball travels forward does not constitute a forward pass. As you will see in the video, you can throw the ball back over your head and it can still travel forward.

      Union refs & touchies used to get this right most of the time but even they have now caught the disease of pulling up passes that travel forward, drives me nuts.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 5:24pm
        Professor Rosseforp said | March 20th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

        I think we all know that by now.
        My objection is to a player who moves his hands forward in the pass, projecting the ball to a player who is in front of him at the point of the pass. This happens regularly, and in the case of tackled players, it is often a handover to players who are close to them.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 5:04pm
      Alex L said | March 20th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report


      The bunker cannot accurately rule on the close calls due to the limitations of video technology, so either you have the bunker making errors trying to rule on everything (as happens in Union with the TMO) or the bunker making errors through the unclear definition of what they can or cannot rule on.

      Get the touchies to focus their attention on the forward pass call, and live with the on field decision.

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