Super rugby could follow in the footsteps of the NRL and introduce a dual-referee system as soon as next year.
Josh Rakic writes for Rugbyheaven Australia that Australian Rugby Union boss John O’Neill, Australian Super franchises and players have been unanimous in their support of providing fans with a more attractive style of rugby in 2010. And should those efforts fail, national referees’ coach Andrew Cole revealed a radical contingency plan had been hatched.
”Having two refs is certainly something we’re thinking about,” said Cole, a veteran referee of 31 Tests. ”It’s been discussed. It’s been trialled in lower grades in South Africa.
”We do watch a lot of other sport and other games and how the officials interact, and all that sort of stuff, and we are keeping a close eye on that development. At this stage it’s something we’re certainly keeping a close eye on. It’s got some merit.”
The Super 14 has already introduced a new interpretation of breakdown laws for this season intended to reward the attacking team – defenders will be banned from interfering with the ball and forced to roll away, get to their feet and allow the tackled player to release the ball back to teammates.
And it is hoped the move will encourage attacking teams to better utilise the ball and reduce their heavy reliance on kicking to gain field position.
”[Introducing two refs] depends how the game goes this year with those new interpretations, I guess,” Cole said. ”At this stage we’re sticking with the breakdown adjustment but it [two refs] is definitely an option.
”I know it was trialled in Durban, but those things tend to need development. I think they found issues in that the game is complicated at the breakdown and therefore because there are so many offences that can occur that it could have refs on either side of the breakdown with different interpretations.
”Again, it’s got some merit but at this stage it hasn’t pushed forward beyond that.”
NRL television audiences, crowd figures and general interest boomed under the two-referee system’s inaugural season in 2009, which allowed for a free-flowing, attacking style of football. Cole admitted that had sparked further interest among the rugby fraternity. In the meantime however, he also revealed referees had been instructed to heavily police offside players from kicks in 2009.
”They’ll be cracking down on players advancing in front of the kicker and that’s another thing that will hopefully open up a bit more space on the field,” Cole said.
”The idea behind the breakdown interpretation is to make for more attractive rugby. That’s the intention. It’s the same idea behind the offside.
”The genesis of them was at the post-Super 14 review in August last year where there was a coach and referee representative from each of the three countries – Dave Nucifora represented Australia.
”What they’ve found is that referees have been too lax on players being offside and in front of the kicker, and therefore when the player receives the ball there’s a straight line of defence in front of him. So he’s first option, his only option really, is to kick it back.
”Whereas if we were harder on those players who were offside in front of the kicker, that would open up some more space and hopefully for some counter-attack.
”And I guess, that’s an area where a second referee could be an advantage. At the moment we work with the referee and two assistants, so hopefully they will be helping with that sort of thing, but two refs is certainly something we’re thinking about [if things don't work out as planned].”Tweet