‘No Melbourne Cup field’ lining up for NRL’s video bunker job
The NRL's head of football Graham Annesley has revealed Jared Maxwell and Steve Chiddy have survived the axe after a number of dubious calls because there are no referees available to replace them in the Bunker.
As it stands only three video officials, Maxwell, Chiddy and Steve Clark, are available to the NRL. The three referees share the responsibility of adjudicating the eight matches every round.
Annesley said a lack of video referee candidates and COVID-19 biosecurity measures, which have resigned game day officials into their own bubble, are the main reasons why stocks are so low.
Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. Every game of every round Live & On-Demand with no ad b reaks during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
"To be brutally honest with you, at the moment, no we don't [have any replacements]. There are reasons for that. One of the reasons is that it is a very specialised role. People may not believe so, they may say anyone with two eyes can do that job but when you think about all of the processes that go on. There are very few people at this stage who are trained to do it," Annesley said.
"In the past few years we've had the luxury of some of our first grade referees being able to double in the Bunker. But because of COVID and bubbles this year we can't do that.
"We can't have Ash Klein on the day he is not refereeing coming into what's effectively not a 'clean' area in the Bunker."
Chiddy was in the Bunker when he ruled Canberra's Bailey Simonsson had interfered with Melbourne's Josh Addo-Carr when both players were contesting the ball from a kick in a try-scoring situation. Simonsson was also sin-binned for his role in the incident on Saturday night.
While reluctant to drop a video official after 'one error', Graham conceded a 'discussion' around axing Chiddy over the Bunker howler would have happened had there been other referees available to replace him.
"Yes probably, or at least considering it [dropping Chiddy]. It makes it easier to make that decision [if other referees are available]," he said.
Maxwell has been involved in two contentious Bunker calls over the last couple of rounds.
Last weekend, Maxwell ruled a no-try to New Zealand's Jack Hetherington because he believed the forward had interfered with Gold Coast's Jamal Fogarty as he attempted to take possession of the ball. Annesley agreed that decision 'could have gone either way'.
In round eight, with second on the clock and trailing 14-12, Manly's Tevita Funa put a kick through the line but was pushed in the back by Knights centre Bradman Best.
Maxwell ruled Best had no choice but to make contact with Funa. At the time, Annesley said the believed that was the wrong call and Manly should have been awarded a penalty.
Manly forward Addin Fonua-Blake was sent off after making an offensive slur at the on-field referee over the call.
Outside of COVID-19 restrictions, the NRL's biggest challenge is convincing referees to undergo the training required to become a Bunker official.
Annesley revealed the newest addition, Clark, needed to spend the entire 2019 season as an understudy before he could take a lead role in the Bunker.
"It's not a Melbourne Cup field, there's not people bashing the door down saying I want to be a video referee in the Bunker," Graham said.
"You need people who understand the rules, who have been on the field at the highest level.
"I'm not going to oversee a scenario where you take people out and replace them with people with lesser capability, that will take us down a black hole."
On other issues from round nine, Annesley said:
- Latrell Mitchell and Josh Reynolds should have been sin-binned for their part in an ugly incident where the Tigers playmaker kicked South Sydney's Campbell Graham in the head and Mitchell retaliated in defence of his teammate.
- Referees were reminded they are not to 'piggyback' on a Captain's Challenge after Gerard Sutton asked the Bunker to look for an obstruction in addition to Eels skipper Clint Gutherson using the challenge to determine if the Knights were entitled to a 20 metre restart.
Originally published as 'No Melbourne Cup field' lining up for NRL's video bunker job