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Annesley fires back at 'over the top' criticism of refs, hints at rule changes

NRL Head of Elite Football Competitions Graham Annesley has staunchly defended the performance of the referees and the bunker amid plenty of criticism following Round 17.

Annesley had slammed the at times ‘sloppy’ work of the officials in recent weeks, yet described the recent commentary surrounding their displays in the Origin decider and Round 17 matches as “over the top”.

He backed several of the calls that sparked controversy, including the bunker’s overruling of an onfield “no try” decision for the Bulldogs, as well as a Cade Cust four-pointer in which despite questions over a possible knock-on, referee Grant Atkins opted not to refer to the bunker.

Annesley did, however, concede that Parramatta should not have been awarded a scrum for a Tigers knock-on, as Blake Ferguson had gone into touch in the build-up. The Eels scored soon after.

Meanwhile, Annesley also hinted the NRL competition committee may look to help alleviate some of the pressure on officials by changing pedantic rules, suggesting that a knock-on in an aerial contest could instead be looked at as a legal bobble in future seasons.

He used the example of making contact with the corner post legal as a rule that has made the game easier to officiate.

Yet, Annesley did reiterate that such changes would require much discussion and would not strictly be made part of the committee’s agenda at the end of the year.