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For and Against: Should teams get more than one captain's challenge?

The captain's challenge has proven a success in 2020 and added another element for fans as well as skippers who now have to wonder when they should pull the trigger.

Now there's debate about whether teams should be allowed more than one challenge per game to guard against bad calls getting through late in a match when a side has already used up their challenge.

For senior journalist Martin Lenehan

The captain's challenge has been a breath of fresh air in 2020 and has helped eradicate "howlers" from the game.

No one minds referees making mistakes - they're only human after all - but surely we should be using whatever technology is available to ensure the correct decision is reached whenever possible.

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Just because a team gets a challenge wrong in the first five minutes doesn't mean they should be penalised for the remaining 75 minutes by not being able to challenge again.

We've already seen players pushing the boundaries in the ruck and trying to gain an advantage when they know the opposition have burned their one challenge.

The introduction of the six-again rule has made the game infinitely better to watch, so the last thing fans want to see is cynical play creeping back in because coaches have worked out a way to beat the system.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys has already flagged the idea of adding an extra captain's challenge for each side in 2021 to reduce the number of times the referee goes to the bunker. 

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"One thing that we wanted to do was make sure the fan never felt ripped off and there's been instances in games where a small error has changed the whole fabric of the game," he told 100% Footy.

"That's what the captain's challenge was about. When we did the fan survey, the two things they wanted were the captain's challenge and the one referee.

"The captain's challenge was always designed to go to another level and reduce the emphasis on the bunker.

"So next year we might look at going to two captain's challenges, and the referee doesn't get to take everything up to the bunker."

A move to two or even three captain's challenges would inevitably bring howls of protest about the game being slowed down but the 10-second time limit on captains to make a challenge means the game isn't being slowed down.

In most instances, one or two replays are all that's needed to resolve the challenge.

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At the end of the day, our primary concern should be getting as many decisions right as possible, so an increase to two challenges per game should be a no-brainer.

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One captain's challenge is, quite frankly, plenty.

It was somewhat controversial to bring the measure in and so far it hasn't gone too badly but that is, in large part, because teams only have access to one per game.

We've seen some very good challenges and some teams use it well.

We've also seen some extremely frivolous challenges, and the only times we've really seen teams caught short on the wrong end of an incorrect call and be unable to challenge is when they've burned their one challenge on something they shouldn't have.

We've also seen a handful of challenges, especially late in games, that feel distinctly tactical or cynical.

Increasing the quota would mean teams know they have at least one spare challenge to burn rather than having to make every challenge count and almost certainly increase tactical or time-wasting challenges.

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Speaking of time, the reason the measure hasn't slowed down the game too badly yet is because there is only one per team.

Ten seconds to challenge then anywhere from a couple of seconds up to 20-30 seconds for an inspection from the Bunker and we're back underway. You can certainly cop the additional time when it's resulting in more correct calls.

But with more challenges comes the knowledge from teams they can afford to have more 'hit and hope' challenges and we end up slowing games down to inspect things that were clearly right the first time.

Increasing the number of challenges would be unnecessary; striving to fix a problem that doesn't exist it simply risks adding unnecessary delays into a game that is actually moving along at a thrilling pace in 2020. 


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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