NRL: Benefit-of-the-doubt rule could go

NRL's highly-controversial benefit-of-the-doubt rule could be axed. Photo /Getty Images
NRL's highly-controversial benefit-of-the-doubt rule could be axed. Photo /Getty Images

The scrapping of the NRL's highly-controversial benefit-of-the-doubt rule and significant changes to the equally-contentious obstruction law are likely to be the first items on the agenda of new referees' boss Daniel Anderson.

The two-time grand final coach signalled his intention to make significant changes to the NRL rulebook after he was officially announced on Wednesday as referees' elite performance manager.

Widespread confusion and uncertainty over the use and application of both rules punctuated a 2012 season that was marred by refereeing blunders and Anderson said he was determined to create greater consistency in 2013.

"Benefit of the doubt will come under scrutiny - let's not be naive about that," Anderson said.

"I think we can clean up these areas like obstruction. We won't make it perfect but we can improve the adjudication of it. There is such a fine line, though - there is going to be errors on occasions."

Tony Archer and Russell Smith have been appointed as Anderson's lieutenants as technical coaches and both former Test referees suggested benefit of the doubt might have had its day.

"It's obviously something that we need to review," 2012 grand final whistleblower Archer said.

"It's something we have to look at, take in all the facts and look at the right method to take it forward next year."

Smith added: "We were criticised a few years ago for finding reasons not to award tries. Perhaps we have extended that too far. It's not deliberate - it just happens over time."

The awarding of a Manly try in their semi-final win over North Queensland despite an apparent Kieran Foran knock-on in the lead-up was one of the low points of the NRL season, and a glaring example of everything that was wrong with the application of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule.

Justin Hodges' try in the State of Origin decider and a Canterbury try in their round-24 win over Wests Tigers illustrated the widespread confusion in rugby league about the tinkering to the obstruction rule.

Anderson, who has stepped down from his commentating duties with ABC radio to take up the new role, said he was ready for the intense scrutiny that would come in his new position as successor to Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper.

"I'm walking into this with my eyes wide open," Anderson said.

"I'm looking forward to it. It is a challenging and very much high-profile position within the game. As a lover of rugby league, I have a chance to contribute to its evolution and to have an influence."

The former Warriors, St Helens and Parramatta mentor stressed that he was intent on improving communication between the refereeing ranks and NRL coaches, something that was heavily criticised under the reign of Harrigan and Raper.

"I'm not sure we are going to get rid of the grey areas at all, but consistency is massive," Anderson said.

"We will get some things wrong, but I would expect us not to make the same errors game-to-game.

"We want consistency from the first minute to the eightieth and from round one to round 26."

- AAP

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