Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The introduction of new technologies to Rugby League has become somewhat of a controversial topic over the years, with many fans arguing that it interrupts the flow of a game and slows it down, while others see it as part of the sport’s evolution and a great way to prevent human error by officials.
Forward passes have always been forbidden in our game but the rule itself can be hard to officiate effectively, whether due to it being too close to call, the speed of the game itself or simply standing at an angle where it does not look like a ball was passed forward, referees do tend to miss forward passes in the NRL regularly.
We may be coming to the end of this though, as two new ways to monitor forward passes will be trailed in the upcoming pre-season matchups.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) February 4, 2022
The first innovation is to insert a microchip into the balls used on game day that can determine whether a player has passed said ball forwards or backwards, an idea from the London based company Sportable, as another company that has chosen to remain anonymous will utilise tracking for forward pass decisions.
Head of Football at the NRL Graham Annesley has spoken to the Sydney Morning Herald about these innovative technologies and how they could be implemented.
“We have been quietly working on different types of technology with a couple of companies for the past 12 months or so,” said the NRL’s head of football, Graham Annesley.
“It’s not an easy solution due to the physics of the forward pass rule and the location of cameras at venues.
“We’ve been exploring two very different possible solutions and we trialled one of them behind the scenes in a number of games late last year.
— NRL (@NRL) February 4, 2022
“The alternate proposal will also be blind tested in several pre-season matches over the next month.
“This will allow us to properly assess the capability and accuracy of both technologies against each other.
“After the trials, we will discuss the results with the Commission and seek further direction on next steps.
“While I’m not sure of the outcome at this stage, the potential to finally crack one of the great frustrations of our game is very exciting.”
It is very likely that at first these innovations like others over the years will take time for fans to get used to and accept, but if they are effective, we could see the end of forward passes being missed by officials, creating a fairer and better-managed game.