You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

Referees co-coach Bill Harrigan answers your questions from Round 16 and reveals the note sent to all coaches.

Is the two referee system at fault for last week's collision between Johnathan Thurston and Matt Cecchin?

This is a myth. I want to put this insinuation to bed.

Not once has the referee who is situated in the pocket had a collision with a player or got in the way of the play. Every referee who has had a collision this year has been in the head referee role and was standing exactly where they would have been had there only been one referee on the field.

The two referee system has nothing to do with the collisions we have seen.

The role of the two referees is as follows:

1) It gives us an extra set of eyes to help, especially around the ruck. It now gives us a 360-degree look at the field of play;

2) It reduces fatigue and lessens the load by sharing the responsibility of the referee;

3) It allows us to introduce rookie referees to the game and get them used to first grade without them having to control everything for the whole 80 minutes.

Are there any rules surrounding the condition of the field of play due to weather? Do the referees have any other course of action other than to play?

The referee always has a duty of care to the players and if there is anything dangerous about the field or if the continuation of play places the safety of players or match officials at risk then he or she has the power under the rules to suspend play.

In the NRL where we have state of the art grounds, ground managers and professional administrators, a decision on whether the match resumes or under which circumstances it may be called off rests with the Director of Football or the Chief Executive, but the referee clearly has significant input.

What do you make of the trend of a third man coming into a tackle and tackling around a player's legs? We have seen some dangerous and ugly-looking tackles are you looking to stamp these out somehow?

We are aware, and have been all season, of the third man in the tackle tackling around the legs. At the moment it is not an illegal tackle unless the referee forms the view that it constitutes dangerous contact.

The rule is that if "conduct involves an unacceptable risk of injury to the opposing player" then a charge can be laid because "the players have a special duty to avoid such contact under the judiciary code". Coming up with a rule that says it’s illegal to come in with your arms and tackle an opponent around the legs when the ball carrier still isn’t held is pretty challenging.

Calling held a little earlier to take away the opportunity for a third tackler has its own issues as well in terms of the flow of the game and the chances for forwards to off-load. The NRL and the referees are however closely monitoring this style of tackle.

In recent years we have taken action against the ‘grapple tackles’ and ‘missile’ style attacks at the legs of kickers, and players need to be aware that even now they do run a risk of incurring a penalty or suspension for dangerous contact.

We are also keeping a record of any of these sorts of tackles and I have been keeping in touch with Judiciary Secretary Mark O’Neil who has been discussing examples with the Match Review Committee. It is certainly an issue that is being reviewed on a week-to-week basis and one that will continue to be until we are more comfortable with the situation.

Blocking players during bombs – what is the defense allowed to do? There seems to be a lot of ‘sleepers’ that get in the way of the attacking team, what are they allowed and not allowed to do during a bomb?

The defense is allowed to block the run of a kicker or a chaser from the attacking team providing the defensive players get there early and stay stationary. Early means they are there with enough time for the attacking player to get around the defender and avoid a collision.

The defense can run in a straight line with the ball coming down and maintain that line.

If defenders are going for the ball, they can use a shoulder to move an attacking player aside, but the defender must be going for the ball in that instance.

We have been watching the blockers and have emailed all coaches to remind them what the players can and can’t do.

This is the note we sent to the coaches:


A defending player shielding a catcher from attacking players must position himself early.

It will be interpreted as obstruction if the defender:

a) Arrives at the same time as the attacking chasers and deliberately obstructs the catching of the high ball.

b) Deliberately runs the attacking chasers off the football.

The rule for a field goal – in relation to Josh McCrone's goal for the Raiders against Parramatta why is it allowed to come off a defending player and still count?

That rule was changed a number of years ago. It used to have to be a clean kick and not touched by anybody before going over, but that was a long time ago. Now if it touches a defender and goes over it still counts as a field goal.

In the game between the Raiders and Eels where Josh McCrone kicked the field goal, the referee wanted to check that it had not in fact touched a fellow attacking player before going over. If it touches another attacking player, obviously it is accidental offside and the goal would not have counted.