End to judiciary bungling?
Sydney - Every Super Rugby team has its SANZAR judicial atrocity story, writes Rugby Heaven's Greg Growden.
Past Waratahs officials still talk about when one of their star players escaped suspension because SANZAR officials couldn't find the citing commissioner as he was on safari in the Kalahari.
Players have been forced to cut short their defence at hearings as their international flight home was about to leave. A few have even been cited on the wrong charge due to communication bungles between Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
SANZAR have this season dramatically revamped the Super Rugby judicial system in the hope of getting consistency in citing, sentencing and at hearings.
The most obvious difference revolves around the referee having an extra card in his pocket. Apart from issuing red and yellow cards for either send-offs or 10 minutes in the sin bin, the referee can use a white card, which will occur when they suspect foul play but didn't see the incident or are unsure of the culprit.
The card will be used to alert the citing commissioner to view the incident, and to check if it requires judicial action.
The judicial process has been streamlined, including that players are now able to take an early guilty plea, which will involve a lighter ban that could be up to 25 percent less.
A player will have four hours to decide whether to take the early plea. Those who opt for a hearing will no longer have to appear in person, with SANZAR now preferring a video conference hook-up that will involve the player, their counsel, and judicial officers. Only in exceptional circumstances will the hearing be held in person.
The use of the same video conference scheme that is used by the US Army will enable teams to have their players' judicial hearings when they return home from overseas, rather than having to rush them before catching flights. In the past, Australian players have been either forced to stay back when in South Africa and New Zealand, or risk missing return flights home when judicial hearings have turned into marathon sessions.
Citing commissioners will also be able to issue off-field yellow cards, that will have the same status as on-field cards. If a player is handed three he will have to attend a judicial hearing. There will be a citing commissioner in each of the three countries, who will then refer to a central duty judicial officer. The officer will determine the early plea penalty.
SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said on Tuesday the changes were aimed to ''provide consistency in the judicial outcome''.
''It is important to remember this is a trial. We're not sure if we have it 100 percent right, but SANZAR has long held the view we could make this whole area a lot better. The main aim of the changes is to provide consistency in the outcome,'' Peters said. ''It revolves around a simpler way to get an outcome.''
Peters said the white card gave the referee another option, but should not be used as an easy escape route. ''We don't want the referee to abrogate their responsibility of using the red or yellow card,'' he said.