NRL head of football Graham Annesley admits the league can’t demote any of their three video referees because they have no one else qualified to do the job.
For a second consecutive week, Annesley has conceded that the bunker made a crucial error in a critical part of a match, this time Canberra’s loss to Melbourne.
Annesley presented a fierce defence of the officials on Monday, saying referees were just as vulnerable to making mistakes as players.
“If we’re looking for a utopian situation where officials go onto the field and no one makes an error.. it’s just not going to happen,” Annesley said.
“Anyone who thinks it is going to happen is just off with the pixies.”
Annesley revealed the NRL employs just three senior video referees officials each round: Jared Maxwell, Steve Chiddy and Steve Clark.
Maxwell made the decisive call late in Manly’s loss to Newcastle last week that resulted in the ugly aftermath involving Addin Fonua-Blake’s verbal spray.
In the Raiders’ six-point defeat to the Storm on Saturday, Annesley believed Chiddy incorrectly sin-binned Bailey Simonnson for a professional foul.
Asked whether he had the option of axing his bunker officials, Annesley said: “To be brutally honest with you, at the moment, no we don’t.”
Annesley went on to reason that the bunker gig is a specialised role that’s not unlike running a little television production.
And it appears the league may remain limited to a three-person bunker squad, with the coronavirus pandemic limiting understudies this season.
Former first-graders Ben Galea, Ben Lowe, Bryan Norrie and Beau Scott are also in the bunker to give officials the benefit of some playing experience.
Annesley is wary of rushing people into the job.
“It’s not like a Melbourne Cup field. There’s not people bashing the door down saying I want to be a video referee in the bunker,” he said.
“You need people who understand the rules and have been on the field at the highest level … We’ll do whatever we can to back-fill with appropriate people.
“But I’m not going to oversee a scenario where we take people out and replace them with lesser capability because that will take us down a black hole.
“That’s not the best interests of the game, the clubs, or the fans.”
Annesley also defended the match review committee’s decision to hand South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell a grade-two striking charge in the face of criticism.
Mitchell will be rubbed out for two matches for his action against West Tigers playmaker Josh Reynolds, however the incident was compared to that which ended in Tigers centre Joey Leilua being banned for four games.
Annesley said the case of Leilua, who was charged with dangerous contact, was different because his contact was with an innocent party.
“A player who was literally a bystander, was hit quite high,” Annesley said.
“It was off the ball and that player was an innocent bystander, he hadn’t done anything to aggravate the situation.”