The NRL has stepped away from predictions its $2 million bunker will immediately halve video referee decision times.
The new centralised, high-tech system for video referees will be introduced in next week’s opening round of the 2016 season with NRL head of football Todd Greenberg targeting a 50-60 second turnaround on video decisions.
Last year it took the video referees an average of 77 seconds to make a call and it was initially predicted that would drop to 40 seconds, but after trials the organising body is expecting a more modest decrease to begin with.
Long decision times have long been a gripe with fans however the NRL has moved to reduce that with the introduction of the bunker which is modelled on systems used in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball in America.
The reactions to its first trial in the All Stars match was underwhelming after all three decision sent upstairs took longer than the anticipated 40 seconds, with one decision taking one minute and 40 seconds, and master coach Wayne Bennett said he didn’t notice a difference.
However the NRL said that because the bunker wasn’t used as part of the Nine Network broadcast, the decision-making was different to what it would be for the season-proper.
Greenberg said many US sports had halved their decision-making time but it would take several months for the NRL officials to get up to speed on the system and only expected a 17 to 27-second drop in the first half of the year.
“I think 50-60 seconds (for video referee decisions) is realistic for the first half of this season,” Greenberg said.
“But I’m very confident that as we get better at our decision-making and understanding of the technology that it will reduce.”
Instead of decisions being deferred to a video referee at the ground, they will be made out of the new central command centre which is located in the Sydney inner city suburb Eveleigh.
While under the old system the video refs had to rely on footage provided by the television broadcaster, officials in the bunker will be able to view multiple camera angles, zoom in and playback and review footage at their own pace.
Greenberg reiterated his promise that it would rub out video referee howlers and they had achieved a zero-error rates in recent trials.