Two refs still better than one?

They have earned the ire of NRL coaches but leading players say recent adjustments to the two-referees system has made little difference on the field.<br><br>Sydney Roosters coach Brian Smith launched a scathing attack on the new model following his side’s 34-18 loss to Newcastle on Saturday night, claiming that relying too heavily on one dominant referee was slowing the game down and causing more errors to be made.<br><br>“The game was just butt-ugly from start to finish,” Smith said. “I'd like to know if we're going to keep going with this ridiculous use of two referees.<br><br>“Gavin Badger has been a terrific referee for a long time, he's been around for ages, but he's slower than me. And he benefited more by the use of two referees. <br><br>“Why are we going back to one referee doing all the leg work and one guy out the back making no decisions?”<br><br>But players contacted by NRL.com have rebuffed Smith’s claims, insisting the change has had little impact – and in some cases has even improved the standard of refereeing.<br><br>“To be honest, I haven’t noticed any real difference,” Warriors centre Brent Tate said.<br><br>“There are still a few grey areas that haven’t really been addressed but in terms of the speed of the game I don’t think it’s any different at all.”<br><br>The NRL implemented a new two-referees system for the first time last season, aimed at reducing the workload previously placed on a single referee.<br><br>However, the system was overhauled four weeks ago following a series of embarrassing on-field gaffes – the most glaring coming when Parramatta captain Nathan Cayless was wrongly sin-binned by Ben Cummins and Gerard Sutton in a fiery clash against South Sydney in Round 6.<br><br>Referees boss Robert Finch responded by appointing a dominant referee in matches where a senior and junior referee were paired up, with the influence of the junior referee greatly reduced. <br><br>And although the move hasn’t gone over well with everyone, and in particular Smith, the players seem to think otherwise.<br><br>Titans back-rower Anthony Laffranchi said that having a dominant referee has made it easier for players to understand interpretations.<br><br>“I think the change was for the better,” he said. <br><br>“It has provided more consistency of interpretation throughout the match with a dominant referee there. <br><br>“In my opinion the game is actually flowing better now.”<br><br>Raiders forward Tom Learoyd-Lahrs admitted he wasn’t even sure whether his side had been refereed by a dominant referee since the system was altered four weeks ago.<br><br>“That goes to show what a difference I think it’s made,” he said. “I mean, I noticed a big difference when they introduced two referees last year because with two there they definitely police the ruck a lot better, but I haven’t noticed any real change the past few weeks.<br><br>“I remember watching one of the first games they had with Tony Archer as the dominant referee and everyone seemed to think he did a good job.<br><br>“It’s probably a bit strange to have some games with two referees and others with a dominant referee but if that’s what they’ve got to do for a while to get it right, then I’ve got no problem with it.”<br><br>However, whether the two-referees experiment lasts beyond this season could well remain open to debate.<br><br>Perhaps a return to a single on-field referee could still be on the cards?<br><br>“I wouldn’t be surprised if one referee comes back into favour again, given the way the game has improved the past few weeks,” Laffranchi said.<br>