ARLC Steps Up State Of Origin Eligibility By Ending 'Benefit Of The Doubt' Rule
The Australian Rugby League Commission "has scrapped the controversial 'benefit of the doubt' rule in a move it hopes will reduce pressure on referees next season," according to Honeysett & McDonald of THE AUSTRALIAN. The commission met Tuesday for the final time this year and later unveiled "several changes to next year's Telstra Premiership that also included changing State of Origin eligibility guidelines and amending rules and penalties to help outlaw the shoulder charge." Beginning next season, all referees will be required to make an on-field call on any try-scoring situation, "referring the matter to the video referee only if the ref has any reservations over his initial decision." The video referee will overturn the decision "only if there is sufficient evidence proving it was incorrect." National Rugby League Football Operations Dir Nathan McGuirk said, "We're hopeful that this will be a positive move in the utilisation of video technology to get more decisions right. Moving away from the video referees being the sole determiner of a decision to simply reviewing it, we believe, will be a positive move" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/19). The AAP wrote State of Origin eligibility "was another hot topic in '12." Now from '13, no player will be eligible to play for New South Wales or Queensland "unless he has lived in that state before the age of 13, or unless he is the son of an Origin player." The player must also be eligible to play for Australia. NRL interim CEO Shane Mattiske said, "The intention there is to bring some real clarity around the eligibility. I think we've got some very clear rules" (AAP, 12/18). In Sydney, Chammas & Keeble noted former Maroons and Kangaroos coach Wayne Bennett said that tightening Origin eligibility rules "would protect the fabric of the iconic series." Bennett said, "It's important that we all understand what makes Origin so great. It's what we've all bought into and believed -- state against state, mate against mate -- so if that's our belief, then it's important there is some basis around that." There was also an approval of the amended rule that provides a definition of the outlawed shoulder charge tackle that states: "Where a defender, without attempting to tackle, grab or hold the ball-carrier [or any opposing player] using the arms or hands, makes direct physical contact using the shoulder or the upper arm [tucked into the side]." Players will no longer be automatically referred to the judiciary panel for illegal contact from shoulder charges "and will face varying penalties" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/19).