Chance to enhance world refereeing
The upcoming 2017 Rugby League World Cup will present a unique opportunity for Australian match officials to learn from their northern hemisphere counterparts and also share their own knowledge and experience for the good of the game globally, according to NRL referees boss Tony Archer.
For the first time, all officials at the World Cup will be drawn entirely from the NRL and Super league and, in another first, will all go into camp together ahead of the tournament proper.
"It's a great opportunity for us to not only share ideas but to also enhance refereeing across the world," Archer told NRL.com.
"Our aim is to ensure we perform well in the tournament but also improve refereeing across the world. It's a really unique opportunity that we bring, two groups of professional officials together in the one event and we work side by side."
The 25 officials and their coaches head into camp in Brisbane on October 22, five days before the tournament commences.
"We'll work really hard to ensure we're across not only the changes (from domestic rules), but there's a vast experience of international referees there who have refereed under different sets of rules and they're quality officials, they'll be able to handle that."
Some of the differences the NRL officials will be across include a standard video referee review system (such as that currently used in the Super League and what was used in the NRL prior to the Bunker being implemented in 2016), in large part due to the level of technology available at some of the grounds.
There will also be the standard one controlling referee rather than two on-field, as is the case in the NRL, with several rule changes for the international game.
"[Going back to one referee] comes with its own unique challenges. For us we're pretty confident we can get the job done with it," Archer said.
"All the referees have done it before and there's a wealth of experience at the international level who have always done it as one referee so I'm confident they can do it."
Archer expanded on how the 25 officials had been selected and how they would be rostered for which games, confirming there is no restriction on officials controlling games featuring teams from their home country.
"I have a group of coaches with me that have been part of the selection process," Archer said.
"They've been part of the selection process all year. We came together at the start of the season and had regular communication around the squad, it was a larger squad which has ultimately been reduced down to the 27 officials we have going into camp for week one.
"[Referees'] selection will be based on merit and performance... for us it will be the best of the best."
Archer welcomed the inclusion of a female official in a World Cup for the first time with Belinda Sleeman gaining inclusion after a strong season which included her first Test role in the May Test between Tonga and Fiji, as well as sideline duties through the NRL finals series and regular lead referee duties in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup, though Archer indicated she was set for sideline duties rather than lead duties in this tournament.
"Belinda was selected because of her performances in the NRL competition this year; she was selected and performed really well in the Pacific Nations Test match," Archer said.
"She also did semi-finals in the NRL on the [side-]line. For her, certainly her first step into the World Cup will come through the sideline realistically and we'll see how she goes from there.
"They're all going in as match officials and there will be opportunity created but we'll pick the best referees for the best games."