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Exclusive: Peter Sterling questions use of video referee in rugby league

Hull FC legend Peter Sterling has called for the NRL to revert back to one on-field referee and has questioned the role of the video referee in the modern game.

Australia’s premier competition introduced the two-referee model in 2009 and the NRL Bunker five years later, with both innovations brought in to speed up the game.

However, in an exclusive interview with Serious About RL, the Kangaroos great believes the changes have not benefited the supporters who attend matches.

“It’s a tough task for the officialdom in our game,” he said. “I’m not a fan of two referees and I’m not a fan of bunker reviews.

“I think the most important people in our game are the fans and if we detract in any way from their enjoyment, we’re going about things the wrong way.

“I think that those two aspects have taken that away from the fans and that’s a shame. We don’t want to give them a reason to go and find something more exciting elsewhere.

Super League games now kick-off 15 minutes earlier due to video referee stoppages. Credit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

“We need to keep them and we need to attract more fans, because our game, we go along and it’s all about excitement.”

Since its introduction in 2016, the NRL Bunker has come in for its fair share of criticism with the emphasis on speeding up decisions resulting in the wrong outcome on several occasions.

The video referee in Super League has also faced scrutiny and Sterling feels changes need to be made to make the system more consistent on both sides of the world.

“I don’t think it (ditching the video referee) will happen, but we need to refine it,” he said.

“We have to make it so that they have definite roles in our game, that are important, but they are relatively minor, in the way that the rest of the game is officiated.

“I think there are a number of little things in our game that we need to tweak and fix, but I’m also not advocating big changes.

Constant rule changes have arguably made things even more difficult for referees. Credit: News Images

“There was nothing wrong with the game. In the last 10 to 15 years the game has become what it has and we don’t want it to become something we don’t recognise.

“We all know what a good game of rugby league looks like and we all know what a good game of rugby league is to be a fan of and we need to get back to that.”

Sterling, who retired from playing in 1992, was also not shy in pointing out that the sport has seen more rule changes in the last 10 years than in the 90 that went before it.

He did, however, praise a number of the modern innovations while recognising the great progress of the women’s game in recent years.

“The two outstanding rule changes that the game has brought in have been the 40/20 kick, which is the ideal risk/reward, and the corner post being removed, so now we see spectacular tries.

“In the history of rugby league, can you imagine how many great tries would have been scored, if we didn’t have a corner post, which serves no real purpose anyway?

Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone acrobatically uses the corner post to touch down in the corner. Credit: News Images

“I’ll tell you one thing that we are getting right, and that’s the expansion of the women’s game. The expansion of the women’s game in Australia is the fastest growing part of our code.

“The improvement in the skill levels has been remarkable in the last five years and I think that that’s something that we really need to support, and we are doing that.”

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