ARL Commission chairman John Grant said a litany of incorrect game-changing decisions made it imperative to dump referees' coaches Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper.
The pair paid the price for a series of clangers on the field and in the video box, most notably crucial calls which went against NSW in this year's State of Origin series. While Grant said the decision was one made at an executive rather than commission level, it had become apparent that the refereeing ranks needed to be restructured.
''There are going to be mistakes but the one thing we want to make sure though is that we do as much as we can to ensure that mistakes are minimised,'' Grant told The Sun-Herald yesterday. ''That's a clear objective the referees have for themselves as we would have for them.
''Secondly, we wouldn't want decisions that are wrong to be game-changers. Our position isn't to make decisions on a week-to-week basis but when you look at the overall season … there had to be some change.''
Grant also revealed the system of having refereeing co-coaches was problematic in that it was unclear who was accountable for the performance of officials. ''You need to have clear responsibilities about who is in charge,'' Grant said. ''That was one of the weaknesses in the previous structure; we had the duality of responsibility of Stuart and Bill. You always have to ask the question, who makes the final call? Who is accountable and who is responsible? That's what we want in the structure going forward.''
Harrigan refused to take a parting shot at his former employers after they ended his 35-year refereeing career. However, he did have some advice for his successor and he believes that person should come from the refereeing rather than coaching ranks.
''The rule book doesn't suit the modern game so it will have to be overhauled at some stage,'' Harrigan said. ''You've certainly got to look at benefit of the doubt, bringing that back. So in all probability, did he touch it, did he drop it? That would put him on the same page as all of the supporters out there.''
NRL general manager of football operations Nathan McGuirk foreshadowed a ''restructure'' which would include the appointment of an elite performance manager. However, he quashed the prospect of returning to just one referee, which several coaches, including Manly's Geoff Toovey, believe would lead to more consistency. ''We need to have the most entertaining and competitive game in the world and officials are a key part of that,'' Grant said. ''They are important in the scheme of the league competition … There will be always be things taking up the headlines and we certainly don't want the refereeing decision taking up more space than they arguably should.'' Former Test whistleblower Russell Smith has been appointed as the referee's boss on an interim basis and is one of the leading candidates to hold the post full time, along with Steve Clark and Tony Archer.