NRL referees boss Tony Archer admits the bunker made its first wrong call of the season in Good Friday’s grand final rematch, but it wasn’t Johnathan Thurston’s controversial no-try.
Archer backed the bunker’s decision to deny Thurston a try during golden-point time in North Queensland’s 21-20 defeat to Brisbane, but it shouldn’t have mattered anyway.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg bravely predicted there would be zero errors from the command centre in 2016, but it took just four rounds for its first mistake.
Archer said the bunker messed up the decision to overturn Matt Gillett’s first-half try, incorrectly ruling he had lost the ball into Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote.
“There was a live decision of try. The bunker ruled that Gillett lost possession of the ball, which then came into contact with the Cowboys player,” Archer told AAP.
“That constituted a knock-on before Gillett regathered the ball and grounded it.
“I agree that both hands came off the ball, but my view is there was insufficient evidence to rule that he had lost possession.”
The Cowboys were fuming about several contentious decisions late in the grand final rematch, but took particular exception to a knock-on call before Thurston’s would-be match-winner.
Thurston appeared to pounce on a loose ball batted back from the sidelines by diving winger Kyle Feldt, but also looked to have fumbled in his attempt to ground the ball.
On-field referee Bernard Sutton ruled no try, but an irate Thurston later said he couldn’t get an explanation on which knock-on he had ruled.
Archer confirmed it was the Feldt incident, and there wasn’t enough proof to overturn it.
What didn’t help the furore was Channel Nine opting to broadcast their own replays, including multiple views of Thurston’s attempted put-down.
“There was a live decision of no try. As he tries to bat the ball in field, the ball makes contact with Kyle Feldt’s leg,” Archer told AAP.
“Based on the multiple angles viewed, there was insufficient evidence to determine that the ball travelled backwards, which is what would have been required to overturn the live decision.”
Cowboys coach Paul Green said he’d like a please-explain from the NRL regarding a number of the decisions, including two more no-try calls late in the match.