The rule was also used during the All-Stars fixture on the Gold Coast.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley insisted he couldn’t see the captain’s challenge being used a ploy to slow down matches even further at crucial stages and has made himself available alongside referees boss Bernard Sutton to meet with any coach or captain to answer their concerns.
“They don’t have to, but should any coach or captain decide they’d like a one-on-one briefing with the referees or myself, then they’re welcome to have that,” Annesley said.
Each team will have just one unsuccessful captain’s challenge per game and they can only be used to protest a decision before a structured restart of play such as a scrum, penalty or dropout.
The challenge can only be instigated by one person on the field within a 10-second time limit.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor hinted he was contemplating using green and red paddles from the coaching box to let his captain know whether to argue a call.
Critics have questioned whether a struggling defensive team may use their challenge late in a match to slow the game down even further, a sentiment Annesley disagreed with.
”Anything that’s going to prevent glaring errors from being made is a good thing.”
“It’s going to be hard for them to do that,” he said. “They’ve got to nominate what they’re challenging and they don’t have the opportunity to use it after that if they need it. I think the risk the way it’s set up is minimal.
“Anything that’s going to prevent glaring errors from being made is a good thing. There’s still going to be plenty of things to talk about, but overriding all of that is if it helps us prevent some major errors in the game – particularly late in the game that can influence an outcome – that can only be a positive.”
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys has driven the new system, introducing the idea after a resounding response to a captain’s challenge in the NRL’s annual fan survey.
Only last week, retired nine-time grand finalist Cooper Cronk and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga expressed reservations about the rule until they had more evidence of how it would work.
But Matthew Johns, one of the sharpest minds in the game, said the NRL should go further and scrap the Bunker in favour of two unsuccessful captain’s challenges per team.
“This is an exciting innovation for our game,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said. “It will add an additional layer of excitement, unpredictability and tactics to matches. Most importantly though, it provides an opportunity for a wrong decision to be overturned.”
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.