Sutton, however, said little would change from the first two rounds and his team of 22 full-time referees were up to the task physically and mentally.
“I’m not worried about the additional scrutiny,” Sutton told The Sun-Herald. “Last year as part of our athlete management system, we’d gauge the level of mental fatigue after each game under the two-referee system.
“Now we’ll run the same system under the single-ref system and we’ll gauge what that mental fatigue is immediately after every game. It will be an interesting comparison. It’s easy to compare GPS data. We actually think they will now run less.
“But what’s really important when we consider fatigue factors on referees is not just the physical output, but the mental load from a decision-making aspect.
Comparing NRL games under two referees and internationals under one was risky, but Sutton said the metres covered each minute statistic made for a useful comparison. For instance, Gerard Sutton ran 9.6km (94m a minute) in round one in the Broncos-Cowboys game, then 8.7km (91m a minute) in the Wests Tigers-Knights clash. In last year’s Australia-Tonga Test, Sutton covered 8.7km at 88m a minute.
Sutton, who sent a memo to all clubs on Friday informing them of the six-again rule, also revealed:
- Female referees Belinda Sharpe and Kasey Badger “won’t be in the top eight referees” for now, and “they’ve always been adamant whatever they achieve they want it to be because they’re the best match officials, not the best female match officials”;
- Talk of midweek games for those NRL squad members not playing would be ideal for referees who miss out on their own first-grade action;
- Like the players, referees will board chartered flights, instead of commercial trips, to interstate games.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.