The Courier-Mail

Fans weary of two refs

- PAUL MALONE @pmalone_c­mail

YOU clearly want rugby league’s rules and coaches to stim­u­late a bet­ter spec­ta­cle, con­trolled by one ref­eree and for the video re­view process to be shorter.

But the 5500 read­ers of ma­jor News Corp web­sites who re­sponded to our NRL fan sur­vey also pro­duced two vir­tual dead-heats and two near­run votes on four of the big­gest is­sues in the game.

Be­cause of the sam­ple size, the opin­ions of our read­ers should be well noted by the NRL and its head of strat­egy Shane Richard­son, who is de­vel­op­ing a re­view of the sport to be handed this year.

Some re­sults will con­firm the ex­ist­ing views of NRL bosses, such as their push for the com­pe­ti­tion to have a cen­tralised bunker for de­ci­sion re­fer­rals next year.

The ARL Com­mis­sion was to have de­cided by late this month on whether to fund the sys­tem, which tri­als have shown more than halve the time taken for a video ref­eree de­ci­sion, and ap­point a tech­nol­ogy provider.

A ma­jor­ity of 79.3 per cent of re­spon­dents reck­oned video ref­er­ees take too long to make a de­ci­sion, which tal­lies rea­son­ably with the NRL’s own feed­back.

But 58.7 per cent of our read­ers said they want a re­turn to the one-ref­eree sys­tem at a time when the NRL wants to plug on with two ref­er­ees and is also tri­alling ex­tra touch judges as well as the “bunker’’ re­sources claimed to re­duce de­lays for re­views by an av­er­age of four min­utes per match.

Given a se­ries of re­sponses to choose from in nam­ing the big­gest is­sue fac­ing NRL CEO David Smith, 25.7 per cent cited “the game as a spec­ta­cle’’, with 21.4 say­ing the per­for­mance of ex­ec­u­tives who run the sport and 20.9 most con­cerned about a crowd de­cline of 5 per cent at NRL matches this year.

But asked if Smith should open the NRL’s war chest to re­tain star play­ers and en­tice oth­ers, 50.6 per cent were against the rev­enue be­ing used that way.

At the end of a sec­ond sea­son in which lift­ing tack­les have been in the spotlight, a bare ma­jor­ity of 50.05 per cent be­lieve all lift­ing tack­les should be pe­nalised.

The ques­tion of whether State of Ori­gin matches should be played out­side the com­pet­ing states drew a 55.4 per cent “no’’ vote, in­di­cat­ing the NRL may be win­ning through at- tri­tion its ar­gu­ment that the se­ries should be used to ex­pose the game to other cities and to max­imise in­come.

It is a sur­pris­ingly even vote, but per­haps the peo­ple most in­clined to take our sur­vey are also among those most in­ter­ested in the game’s health, re­gard­less of state allegiance­s.

Our read­ers de­liv­ered a 68.2 per cent “no’’ vote when asked if other na­tion­al­i­ties, such as Fi­jian Semi Radradra, should be el­i­gi­ble for Ori­gin se­lec­tion.

Even Syd­neysiders in our na­tional vote ev­i­dently doubt there will be the cur­rent nine Syd­ney re­gion teams in the NRL in 10 years’ time.

Asked if this rep­re­sen­ta­tion would be in ev­i­dence in 2025, 60.8 per cent said “no’’.

In another na­tional vote, a sec­ond Bris­bane team placed third with 14.7 per cent to the ques­tion of where the next ex­pan­sion club should be lo­cated.

Cen­tral Queens­land placed fourth (11.2) be­hind Perth (27.3) and Gos­ford (17.1). Perth’s can­di­dacy has faded in re­cent months, with Chan­nel 9 and lead­ing tele­vi­sion in­dus­try an­a­lysts call­ing for a sec­ond club in Bris­bane as the first step.

The NRL’s de­ci­sion to in­tro­duce an eight-in­ter­change sys­tem drew a ma­jor­ity of sup­port, with 54.9 per cent say­ing it is the best in­ter­change op­tion. Only 15.2 per cent want 10 in­ter­changes re­tained, with 29.3 per cent want­ing the cap to be six in a match.

De­spite mostly dis­mal Thurs­day night match crowds out­side Queens­land, the time- slot, which will fig­ure more promi­nently in com­ing sea­sons, drew a thumbs up, with a 70.8 per cent ap­proval rat­ing.

But the NRL re­ceived a Mal Meninga-style fend on the ques­tion of which Aus­tralian football code has won the pub­lic­ity war to draw peo­ple.

League scored 14.7 per cent from what is al­most en­tirely a league de­mo­graphic of re­spon­ders, with Aus­tralian rules football (47.2) and football (33.5) re­garded as bet­ter in the bat­tle for hearts and minds.

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