“It is definitely something we don’t want to do. We want conciliation rather than confrontation with the NRL.”
The ARLC on Thursday night approved the decision to go back to one referee for the first time in more than a decade, as well as introducing a six-again rule that would replace penalties for ruck infringements. The NRL believes the changes will improve the flow of the game while also reducing operating costs.
Rugby League Central made the decision against the advice of the game’s most respected stakeholders, whose representatives were assembled earlier in the week to pressure-test the proposal. The NRL forged ahead despite the feedback of a consultation group that included Wayne Pearce, Graham Annesley, Jason King, Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire, Daly Cherry-Evans, Wade Graham, Cooper Cronk, Don Furner, Bernard Sutton, Matt Cecchin and Clint Newton. The Rugby League Coaches Association also indicated at least 10 of the 16 head coaches wanted the status quo to remain.
Del Vecchio claimed referees boss Bernard Sutton informed him of plans to scrap the two-referee model via a phone call last Friday at 5.24pm – just six minutes before a Zoom meeting was scheduled to break the news to the referees.
“Which employer in Australia changes the entire structure of the department without consulting the employees?” Del Veccio asked. “These are industrial relations matters.
“People will ask me if this will stall the competition on May 28; no it doesn’t.
“We aim to have this resolved well and truly before then. We are keen for the game to go ahead as we know it, not some cheapened version of it that has been such a tremendous spectacle over the last decade.
“We are determined that by 28 May … (the game will) go ahead, and will be officiated under the current model that has been tested and successful for more than a decade.
Del Veccio added that the removal of the pocket referee would have safety implications, claiming head knocks and high tackles were more likely to go undetected.
“It is in the best interests of the safety of all players, coaches, the officials, fans, and the integrity of the game itself,” he said.