NRL tells refs to show some discretion

NRL referees have been urged to be flexible with their officiating by football boss Graham Annesley.
NRL referees have been urged to be flexible with their officiating by football boss Graham Annesley.

The NRL have have given the whistleblowers licence to show some discretion in 2019 with football boss Graham Annesley rejecting a "one size fits all" approach.

The game's administrators will head into the new season with one goal firmly in mind - keeping the ball in play for longer and cutting down on stoppages.

In the wake of last year's ill-fated crackdown - which saw an additional 700 penalties blown and an extra 200 shots at goal taken compared to 2017 - the focus is on free-flowing football.

Annesley said Rugby League Central was not trying to influence the way sides play but he wanted his referees to "read the game" and to show some discretion.

"I'm very much against edicts and this isn't an edict," Annesley told AAP.

"This is just an officiating philosophy.

"Last year there was an attempt to referee each game in a very similar manner regardless of what happened on the field.

"The philosophy I want them to take into the 2019 season is that not every game is the same. Sometimes that requires a different approach.

"We're not doing anything drastic, we're not reinventing the wheel. My objective is that if we do this successfully, the people won't realise the referees are doing anything differently."

Among the NRL's time-saving measures being implemented this season are a five-second reduction in the scrum and drop-out clocks plus a requirement that sin-binned players must run off the field.

Annesley said there would be no radical change in interpretations but wanted his referees to develop a feel for the game and penalise - or put the whistle in their back pocket - accordingly.

"There are subtleties around this," Annesley said.

"A referee can have a good game with five penalties, they can have a bad game with five penalties because he's just ignored everything.

"A referee can have a poor game with 20 penalties or he can have a very good game with 20 penalties because he's had to be much more assertive because of the way the game is being played."

Australian Associated Press