Hugh McGahan: Second refs need time to settle in

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When the NRL decide to make a change in the playing rules of the game, they do so without hesitation.

So the implementation of a second referee for controlling fixtures will be an interesting affair.

The concept has already been trialled at lower levels and passed rigorous scrutiny from areas of rugby league that are necessary for such an innovative model.

Innovative? Well, maybe not so new _ as I played under this system in the mid- to late '80s during pre-season trials in Sydney.

At the time, the game was becoming faster and the defence line was really starting to concentrate on the efficiency of shutting down the playmakers and support runners.

It was thought that, if you shut down the former then the latter become ineffective or the playmaker would make rushed decisions.

If people can remember back to that time, the game was played under the 5-metre rule and was becoming known for its defence orientated nature with `flair' being stifled out of the code.

Ball-playing forwards, in the mould of Mark Graham, Craig Young, Rod Reddy and the great Arthur Beetson were being suffocated and the game was becoming stereotyped.

The speed of the defensive line was too quick for the referee who was ineffective at policing the 5 metres, the ruck area and foul play and forward passes and so on.

The governing body of the time recognised this and looked for better ways to open up the game and assist the referee. The next thing we knew, the second referee was introduced and I must say that it was a complete disaster.

The venue was Redfern Oval, and we (the Roosters) were playing Souths; the referee was Mick Stone and his able assistant was a ref by the name of Dennis Spagarino. Spagarino's sole mission was to control the 5 metres and he just wouldn't shut up.

He would call the line back to him and you weren't allowed to be a toenail over his mark and the first quarter ended with approximately 15 penalties.

No one knew who was in charge or even who to listen to as Dennis and Mick both screamed instructions; it was a nightmare.

It couldn't continue and an alternative needed to be found to lessen the effectiveness of the defensive team.

This ultimately led to the 10-metre rule and the rest is history.

No doubt the logistics on how two referees will work in partnership have been refined so that player or even spectator distraction will be at a minimum.

Warriors lock Micheal Luck is right with his comment that we should all wait and work with this new concept to give it time to develop at this higher level.

Do not throw it out at the first sign of chaos as was done in the 80s after two weekends.

- Herald on Sunday

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