Play-the-ball area a target for new referees bosses

They have only held the position for a short period of time, but new referees bosses Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper are eager to fix up as much of the flaws from last year as they can.

The two main areas that they have vowed to fix up are the play-the-ball area, as well as wanting to bring back the traditional form of the scrum, as the guidelines were today announced at a meeting between NRL referees and coaches at ANZ Stadium.

The ‘back to basics’ approach implemented by Harrigan and Raper has received heavy support from NRL coaches, and the coaches and bosses alike are pleased that NRL fans will be able to see the fundamentals of the game heavily enforced during each respective clash.

Under the guidelines discussed at today’s meeting:

1. Referees will strictly enforce the on-side rule at restarts of play
2. Players will be penalised for not playing the ball on the mark
3. Scrums will be properly bound and players must not break until the referee has called ‘out’
4. The obstruction rule remains the same but if, in the opinion of the referee/video referee, the play had no effect on the scoring of a try then it will be awarded.

“We’re not changing the rules, we are simply making a season-long commitment to enforce some of the fundamental principles in our game that will ensure a cleaner, fairer play-the-ball and give both the attacking and defensive teams a reward for their efforts,” Harrigan said today.

“Not playing the ball on the mark, being off-side at restarts, these are things that really frustrate fans and they will appreciate that part of the game being improved.

“We want all teams to be able to play their best football and this approach will certainly give them that opportunity.”

Raper also said that today’s meeting highlights just how much behind the scenes chatter goes on between NRL coaches and the referees bosses.

“We have spent much of the off-season talking with coaches and our team of referees have been involved in assisting clubs at training sessions to prepare for the new season,” he said.

“These guidelines are just part of that communication process and we will continue to work with the coaches and have an open dialogue with them throughout the season.”

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