League To Use Hawkeye on Forward Pass Calls
After a host of controversial forward pass rulings the NRL looks set to introduce GPS tracking technology to aid referees in picking up forward passes.
Under the current NRL rules, video referees can rule on whether a player is onside, whether they have stepped in to touch, the grounding of the ball and foul play but not forward passes.
However under a new proposal NRL balls would be fitted with a microchip and a battery that would send a signal to the video referees box, who could inform the on field official that a pass was forward within a quarter of a second.
The system is currently being developed by GPSports Systems and could in place in the NRL as soon as next year.
“I can confirm we will have a positional system for the football that will get down to a centimetre of accuracy and reliability of where the ball moves on the field,” said GPSports System spokesman Damien Hawes.
“Our staff have been working on it for some time because it has to be robust enough to handle kicking, passing, impact in tackles and players falling on it.
“It’s something we will take to the NRL during the off season and there is no question it will help on the adjudication of forward passes.”
Hawes also said that the technology would be capable of picking up the difference between a pass that was legitimately forward and a pass that was passed backwards out of the hands but floated forward.
The NRL has been beset with forward pass controversies throughout the season. Just last Friday night, both referees missed what seemed to be a blatant forward pass in the lead up to the Wests Tigers match winning try against Manly.
There was also an incident a fortnight ago when a Braith Anasta pass that looked like it would set up a Roosters try in the dying moments of the match against the Tigers. Replays showed the ball clearly travelled backwards which prompted Anasta to say ‘what is the point of complaining when it is just going to happen again next week.’
There have been calls in the past for video referees to be able to rule on forward passes, however the NRL has resisted that temptation because camera angles can often be deceiving. However this proposal has received support from the highest echelons of the NRL.
“If it works then we will consider it. The tracking devices used in tennis and cricket are terrific. Anything that is going to help our game and help referees is worth looking at,” said NRL Chief Executive David Gallop.
The proposal also received support from referees boss Bill Harrigan, who has been a vocal opponent on technology being used to rule on forward passes.
“If this sort of technology was available and it takes the pressure off referees, I’d be all for it. If it can happen without impacting on the continuity of the game, it’s something I’d love to look at.” Harrigan said.
Similar proposals have been blocked in soccer because of the cost of micro-chipping balls, however representatives from Steeden, the company that produces the official NRL balls, say it is a possibility.
“It’s definitely something we could look in to. It’s something that could be included in the layering of the ball. The mechanics would have to ensure it didn’t affect the performance of the football,” said Steeden brand and marketing manager Leah Curtis.
However if other sports are anything to go by there will be pockets of resistance to the use of technology. Roger Federer has been vocal in his criticism of the hawk-eye system used in tennis, while it seems no two countries can agree how a decision referral system should be used in cricket.
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