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For & Against: Should Bunker rule on forward passes?

We have the NRL Bunker, so should we be using it to rule on forward passes?

The Sea Eagles were denied a match-winning try in round four when the touch judge incorrectly called a Tom Trbojevic pass forward and that sparked the debate again on whether the Bunker should have been able to intervene.

In this week's For & Against, Maroons legend and Channel Nine commentator Sam Thaiday joins senior reporter Margie McDonald to debate the issue.

For his part, Thaiday feels the Bunker is already under enough scrutiny and to add forward passes to the mix would only complicate matters.

For senior reporter Margie McDonald

Have a chat to Manly’s Tom Trbojevic or Reuben Garrick on forward passes before reading the below case to allow the Bunker to rule on forward passes.

The Sea Eagles lost a game in round four against the Eels because of the on-field decision to rule the ball forward from Trbojevic. That loss could prove vital in Manly making the eight or not.

Manly's final play raid called back for forward pass

Maybe don't employ the Bunker RIGHT now but it appears the technology – or smarter technology - is in the wings. Let’s keep an open mind on the bunker becoming more sophisticated.

When the mobile phone became readily available in the early 1990s, no-one dreamed that one day they would be so technologically brilliant that they would be both a camera, video/voice recorder and an email inbox as well as making and receiving calls.

What's the line from ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’? ... "We have the technology; we can rebuild him."

It seems we are not far away from revamping some of the Bunker's technology.

Earlier this year the NRL said it was monitoring the development of "limb technology", which might help in determining the direction a pass coming out of a player's hands when delivering a pass.

Commentators state all the time "the ball was coming out of the back of his hands" as the best indicator a pass was not thrown forward.

It’s sort of a mimmick to the Hawk-Eye multi-camera computer system used in tennis and cricket, which tracks the trajectory of the ball and displays the most likely path as a moving image.

Look at every Olympic swimming final since the Sydney 2000 Games and the wonder of the virtual world record line, allowing us to see athletes get close to it, or go past it. Can't we have a version of this in the NRL?

It was imaging technology developed by the Israel-based company Orad Hi-Tec Systems and actually made its debut during the Nine Network's coverage of the Australian swimming titles and Olympic selection trials in March 2000. It's been part of the Summer Olympics ever since.

So one of the NRL's current broadcasters has an obvious interest in seeing how technology can enhance and expand the entertainment value of live sport.

Every try from round 12

We don't need to be afraid of what the tech-experts of the world can rustle up for us to ensure the integrity of sports results?

The majority of players polled in the recent Morning Herald players' poll wanted the bunker used for forward passes (63%).

But of the 94 players who voted in favour of video technology, 46 believe it should only be used to rule on forward passes leading to tries.

Fine with me – and I bet Trbojevic and Garrick would be pleased as well.


Maroons great and Channel Nine commentator Sam Thaiday

The Bunker cops enough as it is for some of the rulings they have to dissect.

We've made it very technical already with some of the wording and language they use to provide clarity with rulings they make.

Annesley: Who is to blame in aerial collisions?

So there's enough pressure on our referees from players, fans and coaches. Having the Bunker rule on forward passes just adds to that pressure and would only stir more controversy.

When I first came into first grade as a young fella, we only had the one referee and his call was final after liaising with his touch judges.

Technology grew and developed with the video ref and then the Bunker.

I've seen those changes but at the end of the day, I really liked those early days where I felt the game was a little more pure.

As players, you gave enough respect to the referees to make the right decision.

Following on from that theme, I'd like the Bunker to be pulled back even more. I like the decisions to lay with the referees there on the field and the bunker being there just for try-scoring situations.

The less interference the better. You will always find out who the best teams are if you just let the boys play.

I also think that giving referees that little bit more responsibility with things like forward passes, is going to take a little more stress off them too.

If they know they can get through a game without the bunker over-ruling them on their decisions that helps.

For someone going to work in a 9-5 job, if you had someone constantly looking over your shoulder saying "You did this wrong, and that wrong" you'd then start to question what you were doing.

I think that could be why we see more decisions sent upstairs.

I want to give the opportunities back to referees to control the game to the best of their ability. They have enough reviews of their own after each weekend of matches to draw attention to any mistakes.

The referees are a very professional outfit these days, so put more decisions back into human hands.

Then we can return the game to the purist style of rugby league.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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