It’s been an exciting off-season and our referees are fitter than ever.
Last year we had a lot of young referees gain experience in first-grade games and I think that puts us in a really good position at the start of 2012. All of those guys have put in a great off-season and they are putting plenty of pressure on the other referees to perform each round. Competition for places each week is very strong, so it puts everyone on notice.
During the off-season we have had our referees going to all the clubs to work with them on scrimmages and we have also been talking to them to let them know what we expect this season.
One of the main things we want to focus on is being consistent with our 10 metres. We want the players to work with us on that, making sure they are not taking shortcuts and making sure they get back in line with the referee. There will be a strong emphasis on consistency with the 10 metres this year and we will continue to work on that.
Another thing have noticed in the trials is that generally when sides are tackling they are holding the ball carrier up and trying to dominate the tackle and slow the speed of the play-the-ball.
The reason for that tackle is because they want to dominate defensively. We are very conscious of keeping an even balance in our game between attack and defence; we certainly don’t want our rucks to be slower than last year. We had a good speed of game last year and we want that to continue in 2012.
The other important aspect of this tackle that started to rear its head last year was the 'cannonball' or missile-style tackle at the legs while the ball carrier was being held-up. We will be very strong against this kind of tackle if there is dangerous force and it puts the attacking player in a risky position. We will definitely penalise players who dive in recklessly at the legs.
The way we enforce it is simple; if a player succumbs in the tackle and is not looking to offload the ball and he is not fighting in the tackle, we will call 'held'.
If the referee calls 'held' while the player is going down, which sometimes happens because of the nature of the game, the referee won’t penalise the defenders, but the onus will be on them to get out of the tackle quickly.
We have forged a good relationship with the coaches and it is important that we continue to communicate with them. We have a job to do, but we will certainly listen to the coaches - sometimes we will agree with them, sometimes we will disagree. They are in the business of winning and we understand we are not always going to see eye-to-eye.
The biggest thing we are looking for is to get the black-and-white rulings right. There are a lot of grey areas in our game that come under interpretation; I think we have a good balance and that our guys are consistent across the board in our interpretations.