Craig Bellamy concedes he was sceptical when the NRL made its contentious changes during the competition shutdown but now he wants every coach to get behind the referee reduction and the six-again rule.
Melbourne coach Bellamy reckons the changes could yet prove to be “the best thing that’s happened to our game” and has called for all stakeholders to support them.
Given the tumultuous impact on the NRL of COVID-19, Bellamy admits he was surprised when the game’s bosses acted to remove the pocket referee and announced that the tackle count would restart for ruck infringements.
“I thought perhaps we didn’t need this many changes after we had a few changes in the pre-season – the captain’s challenge and stuff like that,” Bellamy told NRL 360.
“But I’m sure there will be some things that no one’s thought of. Hopefully it will open up our game a bit, everyone will enjoy playing it and the spectators will enjoy watching it.”
Bellamy accepts there will be coaches who may want to attack the changes after being on the receiving end of a defeat but he urged them to think again.
He said presenting a united front was important when the competition resumes this week and that the scale of the pandemic has brought with it a stark perspective.
“This decision’s been made, so I think we’ve all got to back it now and take whatever comes of it,” he said.
“It’s really important that we stick together. It’s been a real tough time for everyone in our community.
“There’s a lot worse things happened in the world than going to one ref in rugby league. I think we’ll all take it in the right spirit and do the right thing.”
Bellamy said he hasn’t devoted much time trying to predict how tactics might evolve under the changes, calling on his players to honour the basics in their third round home clash with Canberra on Saturday.
He was guided by referees boss Bernard Sutton, who has indicated match officials have been told to stick within the same decision-making parameters employed through the first two rounds.
“Obviously there will be a couple of little things that will change with not having a referee at the ruck but I don’t over-think it too much and confuse the players,” Bellamy said.