The debate of the forward pass has always been an interesting one.
There is, unlike rugby union, no ruling on the forward pass with the video referee nor the bunker in the NRL allowed to rule whether or not a ball has travelled forward, which, on the face of it, looks rather bizarre.
One of those companies determined to change that though is Sportable who, based in London, uses the method of inserting a microchip into the ball to track whether the ball leaves a players’ hands forwards or backwards.
Another anonymous company will use tracking technologies to make the call.
“We have been quietly working on different types of technology with a couple of companies for the past 12 months or so,” said the NRL’s head of football, Graham Annesley to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s not an easy solution due to the physics of the forward pass rule and the location of cameras at venues.
“We’ve been exploring two very different possible solutions and we trialled one of them behind the scenes in a number of games late last year.
“The alternate proposal will also be blind tested in several pre-season matches over the next month. This will allow us to properly assess the capability and accuracy of both technologies against each other.”
Tim Sheens, the veteran who recently returned to the Wests Tigers in a backroom role, introduced the Sportable technology to NRL officials.
“It’s a bit like a ball hitting a line in tennis or a football crossing the line for the goal, you need technology,” Sheens said.
“If it works, I think it would be great. As long as the decision is made quickly, everyone will be happy enough.
“The touchie gets it wrong often [and calls ‘forward’] because the ball is thrown and lands in front of the guy who threw it [even though it left the hands backwards].
“Hopefully they come up with a system that works. We can’t be living in the ’50s or ‘60s or ’70s. We’re in the 2020s and technology is part of our life.”
The technology will be trialled in NRL games this year, but it has not yet been decided which.