Referees' chief sees challenges with proposed new mark
The chairman of the national referees' development committee Willie Barrett has expressed confidence that officials can embrace the proposed suite of new playing rules if Central Council gives its approval for them to be trialled tomorrow.
Five changes have been put forward by the Standing Committee on Playing Rules with the intention of trialling them in the pre-season and league competitions.
A 10-minute sin-bin for a black card offence, the requirement for a kick-out to cross the 45-metre line from the 20-metre line, the requirement for all sideline kicks to go forward (except those inside the 20-metre line), a restriction on more than three consecutive handpasses and a mark inside the 45-metre lines provided it follows a kick longer than 20 metres are being put before delegates in the morning.
It will involve an extra four matters of adjudication for the officials - where the mark is taken from, how long was the pass, a handpass count and whether or not a sideline has gone forward - but Barrett feels they have the capacity to work through them all if they are cleared.
The biggest challenges, he feels, is getting the timing 'in the bin' right and assessing the 20-metre-plus kick that enables a mark. He sees no major issue with the other three proposed rules.
"The proposed handpass rule brings to mind straight away the double hop which there is never much problem with," said Barrett. "I don't see three handpasses as a difficult issue in relation to applying it. With the kick-out, crossing a particular line was something they had to adjudicate on in 2018 with the 20-metre line so it's not significant change.
"The sin bin, there is no change there for the referee, it's the sanction that has changed, not the offence.
"What's important there is the timing of the 10 minutes in the sin bin. It states that, regardless of any delays, it's 10 minutes. That's very important that the timing is accurate. I recall when there was a sin bin before being on the sideline and players are anxious to get back on, saying the 10 minutes is up. They are timing it. The sideline official will certainly come into play in terms of timing.
"A break in play is defined as a ball crossing a line, a free, strictly-speaking is not a breaking in play," he pointed out. "That's one aspect of this that we have looked at and said we have to be very strong on that. At present, 'maor foirnes' are running in for frees and that's not a break in play."
Barrett is content that watching for backward sideline kicks won't be a problem for officials but working out whether a mark can be awarded inside the 45-metre lines will pose significant challenges, he admitted.
"The 45-metre line is clearly marked but now we have a situation where the referee must judge if a ball has travelled 20 metres. The referee and linesman will have to work out between them how they will monitor that. It could be 18 metres, it could be 22 metres," he said, in relation to the length of the kick. "The referee's position will be critical for that.
"It will certainly need a lot of work from our point of view but we have to wait to see what does get through before we start moving on anything at all.
"We'll prepare well for them. I've noticed in refereeing over the last number of years that when new rules came in, they seemed to take them on and want to be able to address them. Once they're passed on to rule we just take them on and decide to implement them."