Greg McCallum has emerged as the front runner to replace Daniel Anderson as the referees’ boss in a move that would allow the whistleblowers to again be run by one of their own.
Another former referee, Tony Archer, has been appointed as the interim boss although it’s understood he doesn’t covet the role on a full-time basis. The NRL is on the hunt for a replacement for former Parramatta coach Anderson, who has returned to the Eels to take up an executive role.
McCallum, a former grand final referee who recently stepped down as the boss of the match review committee, confirmed he is interested in heading up the refereeing ranks.
‘‘I’m interested in working within the referee’s structure, yes,’’ McCallum said.
‘‘I’m interested in other things that might come up in the game but obviously refereeing is my core background.
‘‘I’ve been involved in the game for 30 years since I first refereed first grade. I went to England and spent six years in their administration and three of those operating the referees.
‘‘I’ve got a bit of a background in it and watched every game that’s been played over the past 10 years, so I’ve got a fair understanding of what’s going on.’’
Anderson lasted just one year in the role after taking over from the sacked pair of Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper. The job is arguably the toughest and most thankless in the game, with errors – such as the seven-tackle debacle which cruelled North Queensland’s chances for a second consecutive year – making match officials an easy target for fans and critics.
Asked if the role was a poisoned chalice, McCallum said: ‘‘No it’s not. In my view it’s time for referees to have a referee driving the program.
‘‘This isn’t a criticism of [anyone] but it’s a specialist role and they have special needs in their preparation that are different to what happens in a club.
‘‘They are a team but are very strong individuals. It’s all about giving them confidence.
‘‘If I was successful in getting the role I’d be looking to free up their mind a little bit. It needs to be enjoyable and I don’t know if it is at the moment.’’
The NRL trialled captain’s challenge in the under-20s last season and McCallum believes the system is ready to be incorporated into the NRL in 2014.
‘‘I watched the [NYC] finals and I saw two decisions in week three which would have eliminated the Tigers if they were left unchallenged but were overturned,’’ he said.
‘‘From what I’ve seen through the trials throughout the year, that’s a really solid model to build on. That will take a little bit of angst away from coaches and clubs that see what they perceive to be errors on the field be dealt with on the field rather than dealing with them afterwards.’’
The NRL has also slated a fact-finding trip to North America to study whether the NHL’s ‘‘war room’’ review system could translate to rugby league.
‘‘Anything that we can study that will improve the ability of referees to get the decisions right there and then on the field is a positive,’’ McCallum said.