Referees co-coach Bill Harrigan takes you through State of Origin from the referees perspective.
Referee appointments for the State of Origin series
For the first two games of the Harvey Norman State of Origin Series we had a strategy that the two most experienced referees (Tony Archer and Shane Hayne), provided that they were performing, would each take control of a game alongside the next best performing referee.
In Game One it was Jared Maxwell, in Game Two it was Ben Cummins.
For Game Three, we were always going to base it solely on performance. A lot of people thought that because there was no drama out of Game Two that Hayne and Cummins would referee the decider. But we still had a couple of rounds between Game Two and Three and whoever performed the best during that period was going to get the nod.
In Round 16, the last round before we had to make our decision, Tony Archer out-refereed Ben Cummins and therefore got the appointment.
Tony Archer had a faultless performance, whereas there were just a few small points that we thought could have been done better in the Cummins-controlled game.
How they prepare…
It has been touted as one of the biggest ever Origin games; everyone is talking and thinking about Origin and can’t wait for it. The referees are in the same boat, they are looking forward to it just as much as anyone. They will go out and referee the game to the guidelines, which are the instructions fellow referees coach Stuart Raper and I have given them.
They will set a standard for the speed of the rucks early in the game, which Hayne and Cummins did in Game Two, and we will make sure they do that for Game Three.
A lot of people argue that referees officiate Origin or representative games differently from club football. But all we ask of them is that they rule to the guidelines.
Where the game is different is that it is a one-off game.
When you have 26 of the best players in the world playing on the field at any one time, they play it differently. Because they are the best in their position, it is different to an NRL game. The speed of the game is different; it is so much faster in Origin. The impact of any mistake by the players or decision by a referee has so much more bearing on the outcome because the game is so much more intense and fast. With so much on the line, players are less likely to give away penalties.
That’s where the game is different; it is not so much the referees doing something different, it is a total different game of football due to the amount of quality footballers on the field.
They are fitter, stronger and faster and generally less likely to be caught offside or committing any of the lazy style penalties. But if they infringe, just like in any game they will be penalised, it’s as simple as that.
What is gameday like for a referee during Origin?
Gameday is the most difficult thing for the referee, just like it is tough for players. On gameday waiting around until 8pm can be quiet difficult counting down the hours. Most referees have a routine; I used to go out and watch a movie and waste a couple of hours to take my mind off the game and just relax.
It’s easier when it is at home, because you can have a more normal build-up. But because this game is in Queensland, the referees are in a hotel and will probably do something just to get their minds off refereeing for a while. They’ll find something to do to occupy themselves to pass the hours. Just like the players, they will probably have a nap at some stage so they are fresh and ready to go.
They get to the ground about two and half hours before kick-off, probably watch a bit of the curtain raiser and get a feel for the environment. They will then start focusing on what needs to be done, warming up and getting ready.
They do the coin toss about 45 minutes before kick-off, but generally won’t say much to either captain. Then it is just a tough period while waiting for the game to start. Once out there it is business as usual.