"Everybody agrees that something's got to be done" ... Bill Harrigan. Photo: Janie Barrett
NRL referees' boss Bill Harrigan has foreshadowed the end of the contentious benefit of the doubt rule as we know it - provided he is around long enough to implement the change.
Harrigan said while the NRL should still have a benefit of the doubt rule, he felt it should be altered so video referees would no longer have to be 100 per cent sure that a player has not scored to disallow a try.
Along with his co-referees coach Stuart Raper, Harrigan has been working on several models, given the enormous amount of controversy the benefit of the doubt rule has caused, particularly in the finals this year. The most likely option would be that, under next year's altered parameters, officials would only need to consider that it was probable that the try was not scored for it to be disallowed.
''Everybody agrees that something's got to be done,'' Harrigan said. ''As it currently stands, there's got to be 100 per cent conclusive evidence that a try was not scored. But if we change that, it puts it back in line with everyone out there.''
This year's finals series was marred by two benefit of the doubt calls, which led to tries to Manly's Michael Oldfield against North Queensland, after Kieran Foran appeared to knock on, and Melbourne's Billy Slater against the Sea Eagles, even though the fullback appeared to knock on. But with officials unable to rule conclusively that the try was not scored, the benefit of the doubt went to the attacking sides.
Harrigan said he was adamant a benefit of the doubt rule should be in place. ''Once upon a time, we didn't have it [benefit of the doubt], and we were criticised for not giving tries when people believed they should be given,'' he said. ''There should still be a benefit of the doubt rule, but there won't be the parameters on it. We'll be bringing that back. Some have talked of giving the benefit of the doubt to the defending side, but I don't think that's the way either.
''Stuey and I have been talking about this all year. We've had a look at a couple of different ways. The point I want to make is that the on-field officials went very well this year. It was the amount of criticism aimed at the video refs which tarnished the whole referees squad. We agree that we've got to get on the same page as everyone else.''
The new interpretations, if implemented, would allow officials to have guidelines closer to the ''if it looks like a try, it's a try, and if it doesn't, it's not'' way of thinking.
All this is being said while the ARL Commission conducts a refereeing review, which might ultimately cost Harrigan and Raper their jobs. Harrigan said he was yet to be given an indication when they would learn their fate.
Meanwhile, Manly's plan to spread the NRL gospel in China is no gimmick as they continue negotiations to kick-start next season there against Canberra. Sea Eagles and Raiders officials met the NRL and Fox Sports last week to discuss the viability of moving a Manly home game to the world's most populous country.
with Jon Tuxworth