NRL to trial new Captain’s Challenge system

The NRL announced that it will be trialing a new video challenge system in the National Youth Cup match between Manly and Gold Coast, that will allow the captain of each side to have a refereeing decision reviewed by the video refs.

Each team is granted one challenge for each half, but should it result in a ref’s call being overturned, they keep their right to challenge again. If they’re wrong, they don’t get any more. 

It’s based on the same system used in the NFL where by coaches can call for a review on a play. At first glance it looks like a good idea. However with so many cloudy law interpretations still confusing the refs, players, and fans alike (such as the obstruction rule) there’s a good chance that we still going to see some dodgy calls. At least we’ll be in for some good on field discussions between refs and captains. Johnathon Thurston’s mum might want to keep a cake of soap and a toothbrush handy…

Another factor is the time it’ll take to review each incident. Video refs already take what seems like an unnecessary amount of time to make up their mind about tries these days as it is. However replays of events such as illegal stripping and high tackles seem to be more clear cut than scoring tries. 

There are only a certain types of calls that a captain can challenge (from the website):

– A loss of possession (knock-on or strip) that leads to a ‘structured’ re-start (scrum or penalty)
– A decision that led to the ball going into ‘touch’ or ‘touch-in goal’
– Any decision involving try, no-try or point scoring decisions made by on-field officials that were not previously referred to the video-referee.
– A mandatory penalty (such as a member of the team in possession being off side and restart infringements)

It’s early days so no doubt there will be some kinks to iron out. But there should be some interesting insights into what the captains are thinking when they question the referees. Especially when tries are scored, but not referred to the video ref for checking. Whether Captains try to influence the ref to make the call himself, or choose whether or not to risk their own challenge should be entertaining if nothing else, as we’ll get to see which players aren’t really convinced, but badger the ref anyway on the off chance that he’ll send it up stairs without it costing the side a challenge. We might even see some blow ups between players if they convince their captain to make a call for something that turns out to be pretty blatant. 

I feel that it’s not vital for the game of league, but if it’s handled well, then it could add a new dimension to matches. There’s the odd player with suspect hands who teams target in the tackle and force spilt balls who will be grateful for a review system like this. On the other hand many of those adept at slight of hand when it comes to stripping player (Cronk and Thurston come to mind) will need to think twice. 

The coaches have put their support behind the initiative, and the players will alway welcome an opportunity to help insure fairness. If it does impress, we should see it implemented next year. If there’s still any doubt, next years All Star game would be a great opportunity to see how it goes at the top level. 


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