NRL referees’ co-coaches Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper weren’t granted the benefit of the doubt yesterday after a season punctuated by contentious decisions and were duly given their marching orders.
The announcement by rugby league’s governing body, the ARL Commission, effectively conceded that a host of flabbergasting calls by the video referees had sucked too much oxygen from games in 2012.
In a major shake-up of the referees’ coaching structure, that came as no real surprise, a new NRL referees’ elite performance manager will be appointed in coming weeks.
“It is time to move to a new model,” NRL general manager of football operations Nathan McGuirk said in a statement.
“Nobody could criticise their commitment but, as we have reviewed the year from a number of perspectives, it has become clear that we need one person to manage what is a high performance team.”
State of Origin and the NRL finals were marred by officiating blunders from the men in the middle and those charged with reviewing decisions in the video referees’ box.
The most perplexing of those calls was the “try” by Queensland’s Greg Inglis who appeared to knock-on in Origin I and the unpunished obstruction by Maroons centre Justin Hodges in the Origin decider.
There was a series of bad calls in North Queensland’s semi-final loss to Manly, most notably Sea Eagle Kieran Foran getting away with what spectators could see was a knock-on that led to a match-sealing try.
Only two weeks ago, Harrigan noted that his referees were hamstrung by the limits of some laws when he queried the worth of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule.
“We’ve had in place now for probably six, seven, eight years, maybe longer, a policy with the benefit of the doubt that you have to have 100 per cent conclusive evidence there to take a try off him,” Harrigan said.
“And we can see this year that we just didn’t fit in with the general punter out there who’s watching the game.”
ARLC interim chief executive Shane Mattiske thanked Harrigan and Raper for their work.