Captain’s challenge on track despite All Stars bugs, says NRL

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NRL head of football Graham Annesley admits the captain’s challenge “needs some tightening up” but is adamant it is on track for final approval from the ARL Commission later this week.

The wrapper was pulled off the new rule – which gives captains 10 seconds to challenge any referee’s decision which involves a structured restart of play – at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night during the All Stars match.

Maori skipper Adam Blair used the captain’s challenge to dispute a knock-on.Credit:AAP

Annesley admitted that the process requires some “tightening” before it is rolled out in this weekend’s Charity Shield clash between South Sydney and St George Illawarra, then taken to the ARL Commission for final approval.

“It’s on track. Nothing happened last night that would prevent it being implemented for round one,” Annesley said. “It is going to take some time for people to get used to it but that’s the reason we have rolled it out in the pre-season – so we can trial it and see how it goes.

“It’s not going to solve every error in every game but it’s designed to catch the big errors that can impact games.”

Blair said he had struggled to decide whether to challenge a decision in the 10-second window, but Annesley said the initial proposal of 15 seconds was knocked back by other senior players.

“One of the things we want is the captain to react to what happens on the field,” he said. “That’s what the referees do – they make decisions based on what they see on the field – so we don’t want [captains] turning around and looking at the big screen.”

Canterbury forward Chris Smith suffered a ruptured ACL playing for the Indigenous All Stars but Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is expected to recover from a back strain by the start of round one.

Elsewhere, Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo limped off the field in PNG as the Sharks were beaten by the Bulldogs, but he has pulled up without any serious ailment.

Wade Graham is also believed to have escaped serious injury after he suffered what looked like an ankle injury in the All Stars match.

There is worse news for back-up hooker Cam King – who suffered an ACL injury in his first match in Cronulla colours.

The Knights won’t know the extent of Sione Mata’utia’s knee injury until Monday and the Dragons are yet to examine Josh Kerr’s expected MCL injury.

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