Raiders training session at Wests
Raiders training session at the West belconnen Leagues Club was an opposed session, officiated by NRL referees. Photo: Graham Tidy
CANBERRA Raiders coach David Furner has applauded the NRL's move to encourage referees to back their judgment, believing the overuse of the video referee has led to a lack of confidence.
The quality of officiating came under heavy criticism last year, with sacked referees' bosses Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper replaced by former Parramatta and Warriors coach Daniel Anderson for this season.
Furner and the NRL's 15 other coaches met Anderson in Sydney on Wednesday, with the intent to clean up the play-the-ball phase and put the shoulder charge ban top of the agenda.
The Raiders began adjusting to the new interpretations in sweltering heat at an intense opposed training session at West Belconnen on Friday, controlled by whistleblowers Chris James and Adam Gee.
''They [NRL] want more control by the referees, they're going to give you a yay or nay on the tries, which I think is important,'' Furner said.
''It gives them more confidence and they'll only use the assistants or the video if they're not sure.
''When you look at it you have four officials on the field, it puts more onus on the referees and I think they like that.''
Fined for publicly criticising the referees integrity after a round nine loss to Manly last year, Furner also called for touch judges to be more assertive in decision making.
Furner was in constant contact with Harrigan last season, bemused why the Raiders were consistently on the wrong end of the penalty count.
''The overuse of the video referee, I think it had taken a bit of authority away from the touch judges,'' he said. ''The issue for me last year was mainly the inconsistency with our penalty counts … and probably my biggest one was unless they're going to put faith in the touch judges, then really they don't do anything.
''I got fined last year talking about the referees, but there was an incident there that was right in front of a touch judge and nothing was done, they just seem to be a little bit not confident in making a decision.
''If they're putting more control back to the on-field referees, it's got to include the touch judges as well and get the confidence back.''
However, Furner stopped short of calling for touch judges to be removed.
''You definitely have to have them because they do assist with the 10 metres or if there's any foul play,'' Furner said.
''But if you don't give them that confidence to make those decisions, you're virtually going to go along those lines.''
The Raiders will invite referees down to two more opposed sessions in coming weeks, and Furner was pleased with how his side adapted to the interpretation changes on Friday.
''We didn't have any shoulder charges, which is a good one,'' he said. ''I wasn't a fan of the rule, I thought it probably puts a bit more pressure on the referees, but it's there.''
The referees will clamp down on defenders putting a hand on the ball to slow down the ruck area, which is tipped to make the game even faster.
Raiders prop David Shillington said the changes will take time to adjust to, but believes it will increase the impact of the game's smaller, more dynamic players.
''Every year they're trying to speed up that ruck area and get the game flowing faster,'' Shillington said.
''More teams are putting emphasis on wrestling, and the referees are trying to find ways to counteract that and keep the game flowing.
''It gives the little guys like Billy Slater and Benny Barba a bit more room to play as well, it probably benefits them.
''There'll be many penalties in the early rounds but that's the good thing about having the refs down for these sessions, it helps you adjust.''
James said the visits were as much about building a relationship with the players simulating the rule changes.
''There's a few little tweaks with the speed of the play-the-ball and trying to get it a bit cleaner,'' James said.
''We're not changing a great deal … it's all about building a rapport with the players.
''They see the human side of us and we get to know them a bit better,'' he said.
''We just want to put on a good game of football.''