NRL hits back at legends’ passionate Bunker plea

NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley launched a passionate defense of the controversial Bunker after a number of league legends essentially called for it to be scrapped.

The video review system took a beating over the weekend thanks in large to a highly contentious decision during Thursday’s clash between Newcastle and Brisbane, where the Broncos were awarded a try despite a clear obstruction.

At the time, and in the days following, rugby league greats including Andrew Johns, Billy Slater, and Brad Fittler questioned the Bunker’s involvement in games.

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Johns was particularly strong, labeling the obstruction non-call “laughable” and claiming the Bunker has only introduced more “howlers” into the NRL, rather than eradicating them.

Earlier this month Raiders coach Ricky Stuart also called for the Bunker to be axed altogether, and that very suggestion has been made numerous times by varied pundits over many years.

Annesley appeared filthy at the accusation that particular call was a “howler”, and told Monday’s media pack in no uncertain terms that the Bunker is here to stay.

“There has been suggestions… that we should get rid of the Bunker. We should either get rid of it completely, which I’ve heard, or we should take it back to the original use, which was for try scoring,” a passionate Annesley said.

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“I don’t think that reflects the reality of expectations generally these days.

“Could you imagine the drama we would have if referees were missing foul play – people would be saying ‘well we’ve got the technology, why aren’t we using it?’.

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“If we got rid of the Bunker altogether can you imagine referees trying to rule on some of these acrobatic tries that are scored in the corner? Almost impossible with the naked eye to do that.

“There’s been 148 (captain’s) challenges this season, 73 of them have been successful (in overturning a referee decision) – so if we don’t use technology for captain’s challenges, there’s 73 decisions so far this year that would have otherwise been wrong .

“Yes it’s another intrusion by technology, but look at the benefit the game gets. How many tries would be wrong if we weren’t using the Bunker?

“It’s great to look at the past with rose colored glasses and say ‘we used to get by without the Bunker, why can’t we go back to it’, but that was in a different era where, at most, two or three games a week were on television. Every game now is has high-definition coverage, every game has eight or nine cameras around the ground, every game has commentators pulling it apart.

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“Can you imagine what it would look like if we weren’t using the Bunker in some of these instances to ensure that kind of mass controversy doesn’t completely invade our game?

“With that coverage comes intense scrutiny, and the Bunker helps us avoid a lot of problems that we would otherwise have.”

Annesley says the NRL must keep in step with other major sporting codes around the globe, most of which use some form of video review system to aid match officials.

“It’s unrealistic to expect the game could proceed at the professional level these days without the assistance of technology,” he said.

“Every major sport, or most major sports, around the world played at a professional level have some sort of technical assistance, and that is the way of the world.”

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