The NRL has relieved its cohort of former players from Bunker duties in a bid to “simplify” decision-making and reduce officiating errors on the eve of the 2020 finals.
As flagged by head of football Graham Annesley on Monday, a proposal to tweak Bunker processes was taken to the ARL Commission and ratified ahead of round 19.
The new Bunker protocols will see just one Bunker review official ruling on referrals for the rest of the season, starting with Thursday’s Rabbitohs-Bulldogs clash.
Those Bunker officials will be drawn from the existing NRL referees squad, with the likes of ex-first graders Bryan Norrie, Beau Scott, Ben Lowe and Ben Galea no longer required on game day.
Annesley pointed to the “different views in the Bunker” in his explanation of how Roosters prop Lindsay Collins was denied a try against Newcastle due to obstruction.
The former referee conceded the no-try call was incorrect, saying “it should have been a try today, tomorrow, every day of the week it should have been a try.”
The move to have just one official in the Bunker mirrors what was deemed a risky on-field shift from two referees to one earlier this year, a shake-up that in conjunction with the six-again rule has been credited for more expansive play in 2020.
“Earlier this year the change from two on-field referees to one has simplified officiating, resulting in a high standard being maintained so far this season,” Annesley said.
“Referees have demonstrated increased confidence to make their own decisions.”
“Similarly, by reducing the number of people involved in the review process, we feel Bunker officials will also feel more confident in making decisions without consultation, thereby avoiding potential conflicting views or doubt that may on occasions be created by the involvement of a second review official.”
Whistleblowers Ashley Klein, Henry Perenara, Steve Clark, Steve Chiddy and Jared Maxwell – who was on Bunker duty when Collins’ try was denied last Saturday – have been appointed as video referees for round 19.
As stressed on Monday, Annesley said the Bunker changes would be undetectable to fans beyond the final decision made.
“These changes will be invisible to our clubs and fans on game day,” he said.
"The primary expectation of everyone involved in the game is to see the Bunker make prompt, accurate decisions.
“They have no interest in what happens behind the scenes so they will notice no difference during games other than what we believe will be improved decision-making.”
The Bunker changes, along with all aspects of on-field and officiating matters, will be reviewed by the NRL’s football department and put to the Commission during the off-season.