There's no bunker in Group 2 so players have to cop the referee's decisions at a local level but a Comets legend offers a paradigm shift on how the NRL should handle the situation.
There's no bunker in Group 2 so players have to cop the referee's decisions at a local level but a Comets legend offers a paradigm shift on how the NRL should handle the situation. Brad Greenshields

Player challenge idea to fix NRL bunker

A STALWART of Group 2 rugby league is advocating a radical innovation that could change the game as we know it.

Like most league fans, Vaughn Dawes is fed up with frustrating refereeing decisions determining matches with the first weekend of the 2017 NRL finals series leaving players, coaches and club supporters pulling their hair out.

While Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has called for an overhaul of the bunker system and the league is considering a "time-out" penalty for offences committed in the red zone, Dawes is thinking outside the square.

A footballers' footballer, the former Group 2 representative and Coffs Harbour hooker and coach says players know best and is calling for the onus to be put on the players.

"I was thinking of not a captain's call, but a player's challenge," Dawes said.

"Any player penalised or not penalised for a stripped ball or loose carry is given the opportunity to contest it.

"It goes up stairs and ruled on.

"If the player is being honest and proven to be wronged, the initial decision is reversed.

"If the player did put a hand in the ruck or it is proven that the original call was the correct one then, he just wasted time and gets a mandatory five minutes in the bin. The players know.

"They will either stop doing it or, if they don't challenge, then you know they're guilty. Takes all the pressure off the refs."

Dawes' proposal, if implemented, would bring rugby league into line with cricket and tennis, who already use players' challenges to video review decisions.

Debate continues over referees' consistency after a penalty against Cronulla prop Matt Prior for a strip that allowed the Cowboys to draw level but then call a last minute knock-on against Gallen for what many deemed a similar incident.

Dawes believes a player's challenge in both instances would have told the tale.

"Matt Prior contests his and the Sharks win but I think Gallen gets binned if he contested his," he said.



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