NRL unveils future with Bunker
It looks like something out of a James Bond movie, and NRL officials are hoping the new Central Command Centre will provide referees with the Goldeneye needed to make correct decisions quickly.
The Bunker, as it has commonly been called, is the most state-of-the-art video referral technology in Australian sport, and is set to revolutionise the game's decision review system.
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg was at Tuesday's launch in Eveleigh, and said the new facilities would be a game-changer for video referees, who have often had to make decisions in cramped conditions with rowdy fans hindering their judgement-making abilities.
With so many additional camera angles provided, while also removing the reliance on the broadcaster feed for replays, video officials will have much more information with which to make decisions and will be able to make them far more efficiently.
"We've sat there for many years with video technology just watching a screen and having no access to the content, and how that speed comes through," Greenberg said.
"Now for the first time we're actually taking shape of our own product and choosing which angles we take and how we take them and the speed in which we look at those."
The NRL has trialled the Bunker during the 2016 pre-season after extensive testing behind the scenes throughout 2015, and is confident that the systems it has in place will lead to immediate success in Round 1.
While he wouldn't discuss exact figures, Mr Greenberg was confident the game would be rewarded by the innovative project.
"It's a significant investment for the game," The NRL Head of Football said.
"But what I would also say is that in time, I have absolutely no doubt that we can return that investment back.
"What I mean by that is there are obviously commercial opportunities, but clearly there's a way for us to monetise the way we talk to our fans around our digital and social content, and also making sure we've got the very best product on the field."
Video referee decisions took an estimated 77 seconds last season, but the NRL is hoping that the Bunker will see those numbers slashed in 2016.
"I think 50-60 seconds is realistic for the first half of this season, but I'm very confident that we'll get better at our decision making and understanding the technology that it will reduce," Greenberg said.
"The overseas sports - the US sports that we've looked at very closely - have halved their decision making time on average over the course of two years, and I have no doubt we'll do something very similar."
While the NRL are looking to accelerate the decision making process, the introduction of the Bunker isn't seen as a means to speed up the game itself.
"What we are looking to do is make the game continuous. To stop those long breaks in play where we're standing around looking at video replay boards or waiting for a minute and a half for players to pack a scrum," Greenberg said.
"That can only be a good thing, because what it'll do, is it will ensure all shapes and sizes play the game, and that fatigue plays an important element in modern rugby league, and I think that's a very important part of our game."
Three cameras will be in place to beam pictures from the Central Command Centre to broadcasters to use in their programming, giving rugby league fans unprecedented insight into what happens in the Bunker.
NRL General Manager of Officiating Tony Archer said the goal was to eliminate errors completely after there were no mistakes made by video officials throughout the 2016 trial matches, while the improved transparency would reduce frustration among fans.
"There's always that demand [to get decisions right] and that's what we aim for," Archer said.
"Remember that there are humans involved in this, but we're targeting a really high rate of performance around here, and this is a really good environment to make those decisions, and I'm really confident in the people in this room.
"People won't necessarily agree with the decisions but they'll understand how we make them so there's an audio and visual component to the transparency around the decision making, and that's important for the game and important for the fans."