NRL's 'benefit of the doubt' rule scrapped

MICHAEL CHAMMAS AND BRETT KEEBLE
Last updated 08:45 19/12/2012
Jorge Taufua
BRENDAN ESPOSITO/Fairfax Australia

TRY AGAIN: Contentious four-pointers like Jorge Taufua's try in this year's finals series may be consigned to the past.

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On-field referees will be required to make a decision on a try-scoring situation before referring it to the video referee in one of several significant changes made by the ARL Commission for next season.

The ARLC held its final meeting of the year on Tuesday, deciding to scrap the benefit-of-the-doubt rule and put more onus on the on-field referees to make decisions.

A new rule tightening State of Origin eligibility criteria was introduced, while the shoulder charge will no longer be automatically referred to the judiciary panel.

But the most significant change to come out of the meeting will affect both the on-field and video referees. From the start of the upcoming season, on-field referees will be obliged to make a decision on whether they believe a try has been scored or not.

Having made a call, if they have any reservations, they will call time-out and request the services of the video referee. The video ref will only be able to overturn the original decision if there is substantial evidence showing the wrong call was made.

The benefit of the doubt and ref's call laws have both been removed from the game, leaving the video referee with the sole purpose of finding substantial evidence to rule against the decision, rather than trying to make a decision. The video referee's verdict will still be shown on the big screen.

The decision to alter the role of video referees is among recommendations put forward by the NRL general manager of football operations, Nathan McGuirk, after consultation with NRL referees elite performance manager Daniel Anderson and the NRL competition committee, which comprises Wayne Bennett, Tim Sheens, Darren Lockyer, Ivan Cleary, Andrew Ryan, Laurie Daley and John Lang.

State of Origin eligibility criteria, which became a topic of huge debate this year, has been resolved. From next season, no player will be eligible to play for NSW or Queensland unless he has lived in that state before the age of thirteen, or unless he is the son of an Origin player. That player must also be eligible to play for Australia.

Bennett, a former Maroons and Kangaroos coach, said tightening Origin eligibility rules would protect the fabric of the iconic series.

''It's important that we all understand what makes Origin so great,'' he told Fairfax Media on Tuesday night.

''It's what we've all bought into and believed - state against state, mate against mate - so if that's our belief, then it's important there is some basis around that.

''The reason it is what it is ... if we don't preserve that, and all of a sudden in a decade's time, we have a lot of people playing in those teams that have no roots in the states, then all the things that have made it great and as popular as it is just aren't going to be there any more.

''It's the only genuine interstate competition left in any of the football codes at all now. When kids sign their registration forms now, they will get a copy of it, so every parent of every kid playing rugby league in Australia will know what the State of Origin eligibility rules are.''

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There was also an approval of the amended rules that provides a definition of the outlawed shoulder charge tackle which states: ''Where a defender, without attempting to tackle, grab or hold the ball-carrier [or any opposing player] using the arms or hands, makes direct physical contact using the shoulder or the upper arm [tucked into the side].''

Players will no longer be automatically referred to the judiciary panel for illegal contact from shoulder charges and will face varying penalties.

The NRL judiciary code will range from a base of 200 points (two-game suspension) for a grade one charge, increasing to 800 points (eight-game suspension) for a grade five charge.

A captain's challenge system will be trialled in each televised game of the under-20s competition. A second referee will also be introduced for these games.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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