Put the bunker in play: Elliott
Former head coach Matthew Elliott has encouraged the NRL to further explore the use of a 'bunker system' for the video review of crucial decisions, insisting the potential positives far outweigh any negatives.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Elliott says that the use of video referral in the NRL is superior to almost all other sporting codes but there are measures that can be taken to further dilute any disillusionment amongst players, coaches and fans.
Having a centralised bunker system at which all video referee decisions are made across all eight games over a weekend – a system currently in use in the NHL in America – has been considered for the past year with trials conducted late last year on its viability.
While emphasising that the presence of a video referee is now an entrenched part of the game, Elliott believes there are a number of ways in which the process and transparency for fans can be improved.
"There is absolutely no doubt the accuracy of decision making has been enhanced by the video ref," Elliott says in the Round 10 issue of Big League. "However, in recent times we have been reminded that there will always be an element of human error around its use and also the failure to use it.
"Confusion around when the video ref can be used adds to the frustration of the time it is taking for decisions to be made when things are referred as we sit through multiple replays.
"The NRL needs to clarify the exact decision making powers of the video ref. These must be in place but it is clear fans and many who report on the game are not clear on this.
"The bunker system is something that has been discussed for a long period but is yet to be trialled or embraced. This would mean all video ref decisions are sent to a studio where the same group of people are making the decisions on all matches.
"The key outcome of this is consistency and a reduction in the impact on the atmosphere at the ground.
"The benefits of this system far outweigh the negatives."
Among Elliott's other suggestions to improve the application of the video review system is to introduce a time limit on officials as happens in the UK Super League, additional recording equipment to capture key parts of the field and to even explore technological advancement that would allow sensors to be placed in the footballs.
But whatever system is introduced it will always be open to exploitation by players and coaches looking to seek an advantage and Elliott believes it is time to come down hard on those trying to rort the system.
"If a player is found to have taken a dive, fine them. If a particular team does it more than once in a game, fine the coach," says Elliott, who has coached more than 270 NRL games with the Raiders, Panthers and Warriors.
"No matter how much better the game gets with use of the video ref, there will always be criticism. The challenge is to reduce that to a murmur rather than the roar we are hearing right now."
The Round 10 issue of Big League is on sale now from newsagents and at the ground. Digital version available through Zinio.