One of our best whistle blowers
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
AS THE leading referee of the modern era, it's hard to imagine Bill Harrigan ever losing the calm but authoritave facade that he displayed through nine Grand Finals, 22 Test Matches and 21 State of Origin Matches (plus two during the Super League war).
But when he first sat in the box as a video referee recently, Harrigan is the first to admit that the adrenaline was flowing.
"I was a little bit nervy to be honest," he said.
"That first decision that come up to me I just went 'Oh, here we go' and the beads of sweat were across the brow but then it was just like getting back on a bike once you got the old noodle all mechanical and said 'I know what I'm doing here, let's go."
Harrigan has found that being the video official is a totally different kettle of fish when it comes to actual involvement during a game but as he explained, that's the way it should be.
"The only thing I'm doing is I'm keeping the tackle count so if he needs to check on the tackle count I've got it for him," he continued.
"I think we went about 20 minutes last week, I had Russell Smith and I just said 'I'm still up here, how are you going?' and that was just to let him know that we still had the comms open.
"Other than that I didn't bother getting involved because I just believe that the referee is out there doing his job, he doesn't need a video referee jumping in and saying 'you're going well' or 'get them back further' or whatever.
"He's got to do that, that's what his job is."
Harrigan was in Coffs Harbour all weekend as the CEO of OzTag Australia for the NSW State Cup but it was his knowledge of the referees game in the biggest league competition in the world that most people who spoke to him on the weekend wanted to discuss.
And the former number one whistle-blower was happy to tell all that the depth of refereeing talent at the top end is rapidly improving.
"There's about four young fellas that you'll see get a go this year and that's just a thing that we've decided to do," the 45 year-old added.
"Obviously if someone has to be dropped for a reason then that will come into it but you won't see the referees going through and doing 26 rounds anymore.
"They may do around 22 or something like that because they'll have a rotation where we want to give the opportunity to other young referees coming through. "We don't want to keep them back waiting for someone to muck up and drop them.
"We'd rather say 'look, you've done five or six in a row, have a break for a week', we bring one of the other guys in and then another bloke has a break so at least that young bloke comes in and does three or four games back to back and gets a bit of a feel for it and then he goes back out again but we get a chance to see what they're like."
If one of them can equal Harrigan's record, then the search for young refereeing talent will be justified.