How referee change could sedate NRL
NRL coaches hope an extra eye in the sky and the involvement of touch judges can stop play-the-ball speeds becoming slower under one referee.
Figures from last year's end-of-season Tests compared to the NRL show how much of a difference the elimination of the pocket referee can have in ruck speeds.
In data obtained by AAP, average play-the-ball speeds in the NRL last season were 3.47 seconds with two whistleblowers.
That is 10 per cent quicker than in Test football, where the average play-the-ball took 3.85 seconds in the Wollongong Test between the Kiwis and Kangaroos.
That figure blew out to 4.10 seconds in Great Britain's Test against Papua New Guinea.
No NRL game last year had an average play-the-ball speed of above four seconds.
It comes after Kangaroos and Newcastle prop David Klemmer admitted this week players purposely tested the limits of slowing down the ruck in Test football.
He and other players have also claimed the one referee will have trouble communicating to players on when to peel off the tackled player.
In turn, that could hurt players trying to get out of dummy-half and create less space for the silky players in the game.
But Manly coach Des Hasler was hopeful the difference of the bunker tipping off the on-field referee and experienced whistleblowers acting as touch judges could control the ruck.
"I don't think (it will be slower) ... I don't think the ruck will change that much," Hasler said.
"I don't think the refs will go out looking for indiscretions, because it's just too hard, it's too subjective.
"I think the referee has to referee the 10 metres. We have experienced referees on the sideline and they've got the eye in the sky.
"I think the bunker will become more involved. If anything it will reduce stoppages anyway."
Earlier NRL figures also shows play-the-balls have been slower with one referee.
In 2018 referees boss Gerard Sutton claimed 38 per cent of play-the-balls in the 2017 World Cup were classed as "very slow", taking more than four seconds.
Just 26 per cent had fallen into the same category in the first half of the 2018 NRL season, where two referees had been in play.
Coaches had been vocally opposed to the changes, but are now willing to accept the move to get on with football.
The NRL are also adamant the automatic six-again rule for ruck infringements rather than a penalty being blown will speed up play.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is also insistent no team will want to defend back-to-back sets without a stoppage for a penalty kick or tap.
"The thinking behind it has merit," Cronulla coach John Morris said.
"We've all had our gripes with the wrestle that's been in the game over the last five or 10 years.
"And the game is doing something about it so we need to support that and do as best we can."