Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper have been sacked as the NRL referees’ co-coaches.
The pair have paid the price for a series of controversial officiating decisions throughout the season, with the ARL Commission now on the lookout for replacements. Russell Smith will hold the post on an interim basis while the league considers its options.
It is understood Raper and Harrigan only learnt their fate this afternoon and that the ARLC has made the news official via a press release sent shortly after the Herald broke the story on Twitter.
The season was marred by a series of video refereeing decisions, most notably the contentious Greg Inglis’s ‘‘obstruction’’ try during State of Origin and a series of tough calls against North Queensland in their finals loss to Manly.
General Manager of Football Operations, Nathan McGuirk, said that the restructured referees team was needed.
“Bill and Stuart have been part of a dual coaching structure and it is time to move to a new model," McGuirk said in a statement.
“Nobody could criticise their commitment but as we have reviewed the year from a number of perspectives it has become clear that we need one person to manage what is a high performance team.
“Bill and Stuart have increased the depth of talent in the squad and that has been one of the real positives over the last two years.
“I certainly wish to thank them for the contribution they have made.”
In a statement ARLC interim chief executive Shane Mattiske thanked Harrigan and Raper for their work.
‘‘Bill has made an incredible contribution to refereeing in a career that will forever stand out in the game’s record books,’’ Mattiske said.
‘‘He and Stuart have worked incredibly hard over the last two years in particular and there is a strong sense of gratitude on our part for their efforts, but we also believe that a new structure is needed.’’
Former Test referee Russell Smith will assume the role of interim manager of the NRL referees department.