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Harrigan says refs will go back to basics

Ian McCullough 02/02/2011 08:41:34 PM Comments (0)

New NRL referees boss Bill Harrigan has defended not revisiting the grounding rule ahead of the new season, following a spate of controversies in 2010.

Harrigan and his assistant Stuart Raper, who take over from Robert Finch, insist they will get referees to adopt a "back to basics" approach, following a meeting with NRL coaches in Sydney on Wednesday.

Harrigan told the 10 head coaches that attended the meeting at ANZ Stadium, that among the changes referees will enforce, include the on-side rule at restarts, and players being penalised for not playing the ball on the mark.

He also insists scrums will be properly bound and players must not break until the referee has called the ball out.

However, Harrigan said the grounding of tries, which has polarised opinions in recent seasons, is here to stay until someone can come up with something better.

Commentators and supporters have expressed frustration about tries being awarded when a ball rolls down a player's arm, before being touched down by a fingernail, or when a try is given after being grounded with the chest.

But the controversial Harrigan said the current interpretation is here to stay.

"I need something definitive in all aspects of scoring a try," he said.

"Of all the people I have spoken to: ex-players, ex-coaches, referees, current players, coaches, commentators, about grounding the ball, they have come up with nothing.

"You can throw off another example, but every time it comes back to shoot you in the foot. Define what downward pressure is? What is force?

"Until we get something definitive it is best to stick with what you have."

Harrigan also insisted referees would maintain standards from week one until the end of the season.

Coaches have accused officials of being inconsistent over the course of a season, but Harrigan warned referees were on notice to perform from March to October.

"With the guidelines there will be no let-up from round oneto 26 and the finals," he said.

"In the past we said we were going to do things, like tidy up the scrums, but by round five or six, we as referees, dropped the ball, and the scrums became untidy again.

"That won't happen this year if referees don't do it, they will be on thin ice and I'll bring in someone who is willing to do it."

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said he would have plenty of work to do on the training field to ensure his players were up to speed for the new campaign.

"There will be a fair few penalties in the early rounds of the season, especially around the play-the-balls and the scrums and we will have to get used to them." Flanagan said.

"I will be happy to see the changes stay, but as long as it is from rounds one to 26."

Sydney Roosters coach Brian Smith, was more succinct in his assessment of the meeting.

"There's nothing new, Billy told us the rules, and now we all know," he quipped.

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