The NRL has constantly looked to revamp rugby league in recent years by introducing rule changes and new elements to the game. One of which was the concept of a captain’s challenge like in cricket.
This process allows skippers to challenge key decisions at any point in the game when the players feel like the officials have gotten something wrong. When a captain’s challenge is made, the decision is referred to the video referee who has a second look at the incident. If the captain is correct, the decision will be reversed.
One unsuccessful challenge is allowed per game. Should a skipper be unsuccessful twice, then they can no longer challenge the referee’s decisions. These challenges can only be made when a structured restart is involved. Furthermore, no challenge can be made when the referee allows play to proceed.
The major benefit of this is of course less wrong decisions in a game. If players have this ability, then it allows the occasional incorrect decision to be rectified presumably creating less moments of controversy meaning the focus is on the game and not on the officials.
It also adds a layer of strategy to the game that wasn’t previously there as skippers have to contemplate whether it’s worth challenging the decision because if they’re incorrect they can swiftly lose their ability to challenge. This means the kind of decision, the time in the game and the location of the decision all has to be taken into account.
Moreover, it adds another level of story to the game. For instance, imagine being in a Grand Final, your team is trailing and is penalised for a 2 on 1 strip. Your skipper challenges it claiming it was a knock on. The decision is overturned and your team get one more chance to snatch the trophy.
Also, on the opposite end of the spectrum it can give birth to the odd funny moment as players challenge decisions they really shouldn’t and end up with egg on their face.
Of course, there is a flip side. It slows the game down first and foremost. I already believe we spend too much time with the video referee, do we really need to spend even more time with them creating further stoppages and slowing the fame down further.
It also calls into question the authority of the referee. If you can challenge officials, do players respect them in the same way? It could lead to further ill-discipline, bending of the rules and back chat. Modern rugby already sees a lot of back chat to the officials and this could cause even more.
This might feel like a step forward when it comes to sharpening officiating and re-vamping the game but it could come at the cost of game speed and respect towards the officials.