Positive start for bunker and new rules
The introduction of the NRL Central Command Centre (video bunker) as well as rule changes implemented for season 2016 have already resulted in more game time and faster video referee referrals following Round 1 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
Fans everywhere were overwhelmingly positive toward the video bunker, which not only allowed for a more transparent decision process, but also significantly cut the time waiting for a decision, with an average time of 55 seconds in Round 1, down on the 2015 season average of 77 seconds.
But video referrals weren't the only area where time was saved in Round 1, with the average time to pack a scrum dropping by 13 seconds in the opening round of 2016. Likewise, there was a reduction in the time for teams to take a goal-line dropout, down just over 10 seconds on the 2015 average.
Todd Greenberg, NRL Head of Football, was satisfied with the impact the changes had in Round 1, but reaffirmed there's still plenty of fine-tuning needed to be done across the season.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Greenberg said.
"We were pleased with the outcomes from the first round, although obviously it is still early days and we are under no illusions about the fact that there is a long way to go before we can claim the changes have been successful."
There was a slight increase in the number of video referrals and try attempts referred, but Greenberg believes this could change as NRL review officials become more comfortable with the new video review processes.
"In terms of the bunker, we are all still getting used to the technology but it was certainly pleasing to see the decision times decrease – as well as ball-in play time increase. Equally importantly, it was pleasing to see the process of decisions being explained to our supporters in real time," Greenberg added.
"Ultimately, we will judge the initial success of these changes over the course of the full season, rather than one round, but it was certainly a good start and hopefully contributed to some high-quality football to start the season."
Fans were treated to an average of one minute and 34 seconds more ball-in-play time while the average elapsed game time also dropped by one minute and 39 seconds, meaning there was more action in a shorter window of time.
Thirteen of the 16 Telstra Premiership clubs used all eight interchanges in Round 1, with the Bulldogs, Sharks and Titans the only sides electing to use seven.