Bunker review system not so bonkers after all

James Tedesco celebrates with Tigers teammates after the video referee gave his try the all clear. Photo: Getty Images.
James Tedesco celebrates with Tigers teammates after the video referee gave his try the all clear. Photo: Getty Images.

ANYONE who watched the Queensland Cup TV match yesterday would have no doubt whatsoever the NRL bunker-review system is a runaway winner.

QRL match officials took a trip down the time tunnel when the review of a "try" to the Sunshine Coast Falcons went to the video referee. More than half-a-dozen replays and seemingly just as many minutes later the decision was handed down - and I'm still uncertain if it was the right call.

The second tier of the NRL competitions, the Queensland and NSW Cups respectively, do not have access to the state-of-the-art bunker system which has been introduced this season at a reported cost of $2 million. And while this is in no way meant to be a criticism of the QRL officials involved, the gap between the two systems is light years.

From what I witnessed over the weekend, a poor decision from the bunker is nigh-on impossible. And the only hint of a criticism came from Eels centre Michael Jennings, who was the first "victim" of the most advanced video referral technology in Australian sport, when he had a try disallowed against the Broncos.

Investing in the bunker was a huge gamble by the NRL, and one that was widely criticised.

Just the thought of centralising such vital decision-making away from the heat of the battle was considered bizarre.

But if the first round of 2016 is the yardstick, it has been one of the smartest investments the game has made in decades.

Not only are the decisions being made the correct ones, but they are quick. Most over the weekend took less than a minute, which is the target. Last season they averaged 77 seconds - and there were 757 of them.

So advanced is the technology that when the on-field referee asks the bunker officials to rule on a try from a kick, by the time the TV viewer is taken to the bunker the onside ruling has already been made. This takes a necessary but mundane component out of our living rooms.

And while the state-of-the-art technology gives the officials infinitely improved playback and screen expertise from 12 camera angles, the reduction in the number of video officials is another plus.

Consistency will be the winner with just 10 reviewers being used in 2016, as opposed to 22 last season.

But one flaw in the system remains. Despite the advance in technology, the on-field referee is still asked to make a call before sending a decision upstairs.

The question remains - why should the referee have to literally guess when he isn't sure, and when the latest whiz-bang equipment is merely a hand signal away, and the correct call takes less than a minute?

There is simply no need now to ask him to make that call.


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