Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper to lead referees in 2011

Former NRL referee Bill Harrigan, and former Sharks coach Stuart Raper have been given the role of head of the NRL referees in a dual coaching position, after Robert Finch recently retired from the position.

Raper, who last coached a team or collective three years ago, believes that his previous coaching experience at the Sharks, will hold him good stead as he will bring uniqueness to the position.

“I’ve had the advantage of being on both the coaching and refereeing side of the equation and the importance of referees keeping pace with the changes in the game itself has never been higher,” Raper said.

“There’s no better person to work with in adapting those changes to the technical aspects of refereeing than Bill and that’s why I see this as being such a promising partnership.”

Harrigan’s appointment to the position is somewhat controversial given he stood himself down from video-refereeing after a controversial decision in the Dragons v Manly clash in Rd 18.

Harrigan, who officiated a record seven consecutive grand finals from 1997 to 2003, knows that the decisions he makes are his and his only.

“There are certainly some changes I think that we can introduce to the way we prepare and appoint referees.

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“Both Stuart and I want to see referees have every possible support but we also want them to know that they have to make decisions and be responsible for those decisions.

“This is a new role that gives me significantly greater input and I also have to be responsible for the decisions I make.

“Robert Finch was great to work with and lifted the overall professionalism of the referees to a new level.

“It is up to Stuart and I to make our own contribution to the process and this is certainly a very different role to the one I have been in.

“I believe we have a really strong squad to work with and I think there will be some changes to the way the game is refereed as a result.”

Harrigan and Raper begin on Monday

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