Harrigan and Raper new refs' coaches

The National Rugby League has today unveiled another key step in the progression of full-time refereeing with the appointment of dual coaches to manage the AAMI refereeing squad in next year’s Telstra Premiership.

Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper will head refereeing in 2011 in a dual coaching model that recognises the growing opportunities to develop refereeing’s full-time professional squad.

The appointments are an acknowledgement of the increasing demands on refereeing including the need for consultation with coaches and players while developing the skills of referees.

“Stuart and Bill working together with equal authority will be able to increase the communication processes between referees, coaches and players,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“There will be clear areas of responsibility.  Bill’s experience in the technical aspects of refereeing speaks for itself, while Stuart’s ability to consult with coaches, integrate training programs and continue to adapt to the changing trends of the game are an important part of the program’s success.

 “Refereeing remains one of the most critical aspects of the sport and the speed and intricacies of modern coaching, along with the scrutiny of modern media technology have taken it into new areas.

“We’ve invested heavily in keeping pace with those changes, introduced a two refereeing model, a full-time refereeing squad and development programs targeting former players.

“The dual coaching role is a reflection of that ongoing commitment.”

Stuart Raper and Bill Harrigan will officially take over the squad from next Monday.

“It’s going to be a new experience for both of us and one that will allow us to make some changes to the way refereeing is developed,” former Challenge Cup winning coach and former Cronulla coach, Raper, said today.

“I’ve had the advantage of being on both the coaching and refereeing side of the equation and the importance of referees keeping pace with the changes in the game itself has never been higher.

“There’s no better person to work with in adapting those changes to the technical aspects of refereeing than Bill and that’s why I see this as being such a promising partnership.”

The most successful referee of the modern era, appointed to a record seven consecutive Grand Finals, Bill Harrigan said today that he was excited about the opportunities ahead:

“There are certainly some changes I think that we can introduce to the way we prepare and appoint referees.

“Both Stuart and I want to see referees have every possible support but we also want them to know that they have to make decisions and be responsible for those decisions.

“This is a new role that gives me significantly greater input and I also have to be responsible for the decisions I make.

“Robert Finch was great to work with and lifted the overall professionalism of the referees to a new level.

“It is up to Stuart and I to make our own contribution to the process and this is certainly a very different role to the one I have been in.

“I believe we have a really strong squad to work with and I think there will be some changes to the way the game is refereed as a result.”