It was largely business as usual on Saturday night as the NRL’s new video referee bunker made a howler-free debut in the All Stars extravaganza.
If you didn’t know the bunker was in action during the World All Stars’ 12-8 win over the Indigenous side at Suncorp Stadium, you wouldn’t have known the difference.
But hopes the NRL’s $2 million investment into a state-of-the-art Central Command Centre based in Sydney’s Eveleigh would speed up decision-making appear to be, at this early stage, a touch optimistic.
The on-field referees went to the bunker on three occasions and, each time, the right decision was eventually reached – keeping with NRL head of football Todd Greenberg’s prediction of a zero error rate from video referees this season, thanks to the new technology and camera angles available.
All three consultations went well beyond the average target of approximately 40 seconds, with the longest being the review of Konrad Hurrell’s first try of the match just past the half-hour mark, which dragged out for 1 minute and 40 seconds.
Hurrell’s was also the most contentious, appearing to fall short of the line, but the video referee ruled the New Zealand Warriors powerhouse got enough on his grounding of the ball as he threw off four Indigenous defenders to open the scoring.
Meanwhile, there was only one victim of the new, stricter policing of incorrect play-the-balls.
Early in the second quarter, World All Stars forward Martin Taupau was pinged for failing to put his foot on the ball as he rolled it back, 20 metres out from his side’s attacking line.
The NRL is experimenting with the more hardline interpretation of the rule in pre-season and is yet to decide if it will be kept for the season proper.