Ahh, the video referee. Where would we be without him? Sure, it can be a �damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don�t� kind of situation every now and then, but it�s hard to argue against the fact that they�ve been a valuable addition to the Rugby League landscape.
But following the introduction of the �man upstairs� in 1997, what other technological advances has Rugby League made since then??
It can be a controversial area at times � people are keen to hang on to the past, and don�t want to see the game over-run with flashy little lights and fibre-optic cables. Even the video ref was hard for the traditionalists to swallow at first, and you�ll still hear the faint calls to get rid of them emerging from empty forests and abandoned beach huts.
Well I�m here to say NUTS TO THAT!! Going on the theory that �the more you ask for, the more you�re likely to get�, here�s a whacky idea to get more technology into our great game!
The microchip is testament to the immense power of tiny things. Smaller than a penny, the chip, or integrated circuit, is quite literally the brain, heart and nervous system of every digital device on the planet.
Intel's current powerhouse chip contains 7.5 million transistors and can perform up to 300 million instructions every second. The most advanced chips, called microprocessors, are capable of calculating several million instructions in a split second, enabling computers and digital devices to process vast bits of information in the blink of an eye.
�So what??� I hear you ask. Well I don�t know about you, but I can see literally HUNDREDS of opportunities for Rugby League to seize a technological advantage here.
(Warning: Bizarre ideas ahead)
Firstly - put a chip in the ball! Surely the power of the microchip, combined with some sort of GPS tracking system, will finally give us a system to detect even the smallest (or most obvious!) of forward passes. Hey, maybe the ball could light up red to indicate that play should stop?
The same idea could work for touchline or tryline decisions � was he out? Did he force it in time? Was that really a 40/20? No need to rely on human judgment or a freeze-frame video replay - just watch the colour of the ball!
And how cool would it be to have a clear green �screen� suddenly light up between the posts as the ball is kicked through for a conversion or a field goal? Let�s be honest here � how many times have you been sitting at a game and had to rely SOLELY on the amount of noise generated by the crowd to determine whether or not a kick was successful? Not only will some sort of lighting system make it far easier to tell, it would also help you to avoid the embarrassment of being the last one to know what actually happened.
Now let�s keep going � how about a chip in the boots?
Again, touchline decisions could be made in a flash � and flashed up as soon as they are made. And what about the always-dodgy offside calls?? With a chip in the boots, we�ll never have to see a wrong decision again. The ref could be tying his shoelaces or ogling the cheerleaders, and it wouldn�t matter!
Instant decisions would also have the flow-on effect of reducing the amount of time wasted during a match. Faster calls = faster game = more action = happier fans!!
And then there�s the most obvious crowd-pleasing consequence of implementing this new technology � fewer referees will be required! The touch judges could almost certainly be consigned to the local recycling center, although it may be wise to keep them on for a little while to allow the fans sitting close to the sideline to continue with their traditional tirades of abuse.
Now, before you run off to find me a white straitjacket, just stop and think for a moment; would any of this really be that crazy to see? The traditionalists would hate it, but they hate anything new anyway. And it�s not like this would change any rules, or allow unfair advantages to anyone. It�s simply an extension of what the video referee does now � helping out the man in the middle.
The microchip could definitely handle it � and I reckon the game will as well. Just give it time!