Rick Williams, the man who introduced the bunker to NRL, warned of Wests Tigers-style dramas

Rick Williams, the man who introduced the bunker to NRL, warned of Wests Tigers-style dramas

Former ice hockey referee Rick Williams, the man who introduced the bunker concept to the NRL.

“When it first started, I said to Graham, ‘you are getting guys into the bunker who want to referee the game. You can’t do that, it’s not right.’ That’s the way it has gone, which is unfortunate.

“It’s a brilliant tool for them, but it should just be for scoring. It’s just gone further and further and this is what happens.”

Williams, an Australia-based Canadian, who has officiated ice jockey at Olympic level, said the over-reliance on the bunker would always lead to the type of drama that overshadowed the Tigers-Cowboys game.

“The game was over, and then they got the call from the bunker and I went, ‘oh no,'” Williams said.

“I would have just tapped on my ear [if I was the referee] and said, ‘Sorry, I can’t hear you’ and got the hell out of there. Let the referee make the decision. I wouldn’t want to be a referee in the NRL, my head would explode.

“The referees must be frustrated because every time something happens they get someone in their earpiece saying, ‘We’ve got to take a look at this.’ Just let them do their job.”

The NHL's 'situation room' is the inspiration for the NRL's bunker.

The NHL’s ‘situation room’ is the inspiration for the NRL’s bunker.

Andrew Johns’ referenced Williams in his most recent Herald column and agreed the bunker should only be used for try reviews.

Williams said the NHL avoided the controversies plaguing league by having former coaches and players in the situation room and limiting what they could rule on.


“It’s been working in the NHL for nearly 20 years, and it’s seamless, no worries at all,” he said. “Everyone is happy with it. [The NRL] have gone well beyond what it was designed for.”

Asked if the NRL would be better off without the bunker, the 66-year-old said: “The way it is used now, yes. It’s interrupting the game. But if it is just for scoring [it’s worth keeping].

“It’s brilliant for what it is designed for, but nothing else.”

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