Bill Harrigan, the inventor of the dual-referee model, says the time has come for the NRL to revert to having just one whistle-blower.
Harrigan believes the two-referee system he and former referees boss Robert Finch developed and introduced in 2009, has been tinkered with so much that it’s now making officiating worse.
For years Harrigan argued that the increasing speed of the game made it impossible for one person to maintain control.
Sacked as the NRL’s head of referees in 2012 and now a commentator, Harrigan says he’s observed this season that inconsistency with policing the 10 metres and interference by the pocket ref at the ruck has become unacceptable.
“I’ve changed my mind after watching this year,” Harrigan told AAP.
“The two referee model has been tampered with too much.
“It’s no longer achieving what it was first brought in for and therefore I don’t like it anymore.
“I don’t think it’s being used appropriately and therefore I’m a fan now of saying `righto, go back to the one referee’.”
A former top referee, Harrigan said he’s spoken to current referees who aren’t happy with the way the system is working.
Coaches and chief executives have also raised their concerns as controversial decisions and the quality of whistleblowers again dominate headlines.
South Sydney boss Shane Richardson said last month it was time to go back to one referee because wrestling in tackles is no longer a problem, refereeing depth is shallow and international rugby league hasn’t embraced the move.
Harrigan says referees are too often changing from the pocket to the main role midway through a set of six – increasing inconsistencies.
He says the pocket referee is also regularly interfering in the play, with dummy-halves forced to push them out of the way and throw passes over their ducking heads.
When the concept was introduced, Harrigan told then NRL chief executive David Gallop that the model should be given five years before an independent review was done to gauge whether it had improved the overall standard of decision-making.
Harrigan admits he originally hated the idea of one referee permanently controlling the game, with the other restricted to the pocket.
However he believes that kind of rigid structure is the only way two referees can succeed.
“One knows he’s the pocket referee. He might have a whistle in his hand in case of an emergency, but otherwise (he doesn’t blow it),” he said.
“I’ve seen with them interfering with the play. That’s not what it’s about. He should be in the pocket, standing back and watching the ruck with a different set of eyes from a different angle, which I still think works.
“But not sharing it and changing their 10 metres and inconsistency like they are. It’s just not working.”