Opinion: Why the NRL bunker should rule on forward passes

After last weeks botched call against the Warriors, it's time for change, writes Ben Francis.
After last weeks botched call against the Warriors, it's time for change, writes Ben Francis. Photo credit: Getty Imgaes

OPINION: The two officials at the centre of the controversial decision to award Cronulla the match-winning try against the Warriors have been demoted, and that should be a clear reason why the NRL bunker should rule on forward passes.

It was clear as daylight on the TV screen, but as the four-pointer was referred to the bunker by referee Adam Gee, the video official couldn't rule on the apparent forward pass.

Even touch- judge Tim Roby who was just behind the 10- metres line, missed it.

Henry Perenara would have been sitting in the bunker on, knowing the right thing too would be to hit the red button, but he wasn't allowed.

That has led to both Gee and Roby being demoted from Round 17 action in the NRL, a clear signal that they got the call wrong.

In a tight battle among in the NRL's top eight, the two points that the Warriors missed out on could be the difference between a home final or travelling to Australia, if they make it that far. 

Ricky Leutele throws a forward pass to Edrick Lee.
Ricky Leutele throws a forward pass to Edrick Lee. Photo credit: Sky Sports

It wasn't the first time, and it won’t be the last time a game has been won or lost over a controversial pass. It only drifted forward a couple of metres, and it wasn't as bad as the infringement that cost the Sharks against Brisbane two week ago.

The bunker is allowed to rule on everything else on the footy field, from offsides to illegal runs, but it can't make calls on passes.

Players are getting away with that more and more often. Issac Luke throws a few forward from dummy-half every match, but continually escapes penalty.

It has slowly become become a big problem for the game.

And that’s why the bunker needs to get involved. We continually hear how the video officials have all these camera angles and millions of dollars have been invested, but how can it be useful, when it can't make decisions on game-changing moments.

Yes, it's hard to judge if a pass goes forward, as there are several variables to weigh up, but when it’s being shown on the big screen, and it’ is obvious, why can't the on-field referee make the call as we see in rugby.

Not much would change. The lead official would do what they always do and say 'try' or 'no try', and if they feel like the last pass was forward, they can say, 'can you check the pass'.

There would need to be conclusive evidence to overturn the on-field decision.

In the past, it was deemed too tough to tell, via camera angle, if indeed the pass was forward, but how can you know if somebody is in front of the kicker or inside the 10 off the same camera angle.

It is a very similar scenario.

But remember the bunker was brought in to 'speed up the game', but every time somebody scores a try, it seems to be checked by the bunker even though most of the time, the on-field referee was right.

We always seem to be amazed when the bunker doesn't review a try.

Yes, it might make the game drag on for a few minutes longer, but fans would appreciate the correct calls being made and consistently.

The VAR has proven to be successful at the Football World Cup, despite games going on slightly longer. It copped some flack, but it has had a 99.3 percent rate of correct decisions in Russia.

If you don't want the bunker checking the pass because the referee doesn't know, then implement a captain's challenge that would give them the chance to check for a forward pass.

In an ideal world, the bunker should be scrapped, but for now, it should be able to say, 'yes, that was forward'.

For the people disagreeing, just imagine your team losing a Grand Final and the match-winning try being scored off a forward pass.

Ben Francis is a Newshub online sports producer.