Sport Rugby League Transparency is key as NRL moves to independent referee panel
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Transparency is key as NRL moves to independent referee panel

NRL-referees
Referees in the spotlight: A captain's challenge will also be part of NRL rules in 2020. Photo: Getty
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NRL referees’ boss Bernard Sutton will no longer be responsible for appointing match officials with the league creating an independent panel.

A recommendation of last year’s McCurry Review into match officials, the panel is responsible for overseeing all first grade and representative refereeing appointments.

The new seven-man panel will be chaired former Manly prop and NRL general manager of elite competitions Jason King and includes ex-Norths forward David Fairleigh and former Rabbitohs player David Boyle.

The other panel members include former international referee Russell Smith, ex touch judge Steve Chiddy and former referees Jared Maxwell and Gavin Reynolds.

Sutton will continue to oversee all administrative aspects, which includes coaching, and remain the key point of contact for all NRL coaches.

NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley said the new panel would free up more time for Sutton to focus on high performance and remove any perceived issues surrounding the transparency of refereeing appointments.

There were some accusations last season that Sutton’s brothers, Gerard and Chris, were getting preferential treatment.

“Bernard Sutton has assisted with the creation of this new panel,” Annesley said.

We now have former players, former referees, bunker review officials and a representative from NRL football management making our refereeing appointments

“There will be greater rigour around the selection of our referees, more transparency and we expect stronger on-field performances because Bernard Sutton will be able to devote more time to coaching and administration.”

The panel will commence immediately, making appointments for round one.

The NRL has also moved to make a captains’ challenge part of the game next year after a number of controversial decisions marred games in 2020.