NRL head of football Graham Annesley has defended the officiating of the bunker, after it once again came under fire following a string of controversial calls over the weekend.

However, the major bones of contention stemmed from the opening game of round 11, where Newcastle hosted Brisbane.

Speaking after the match, Knights’ coach Adam O’Brien felt his side had been hard done by, after two contentious calls went against his team.

Firstly, Dane Gagai’s try was overturned by the bunker, after it cited a knock-on from the Queenslander.

Then, the Broncos were awarded a try despite there being an apparent obstruction in the lead up, where Te Maire Martin passed while situated behind Jordan Riki.

“There was mixed opinion on this,” Annesley said in his Monday afternoon media briefing.

“Riki is not so much a lead runner; he is more a support player. He could have received the pass. Adam Clune is marking up against him in case he does receive this pass.”

Annesley went on to defend Grant Atkins, who was the bunker official in charge, citing how he had come to the conclusion of allowing the try to stand. 

“The bunker makes what is quite a technical decision. And I accept that there’ll be many people who think this should have been an obstruction,” he said.

“I want to explain the technical decision that the bunker made… Where this gets complicated is the position where he [Martin] passes.

“The bunker determined that he had released that ball before he ran behind Riki. And in that scenario, they adjudicated it did not constitute obstruction.

“The technicality of this decision is about where did he catch and where did he release.

“He certainly caught it on the inside shoulder and that is an indicator that would normally lead to obstruction. But for it to be obstruction, he actually has to still have the ball when he runs behind the lead runner, or support player in this case.

“The bunker adjudicated that he didn’t. That he’d already passed and that’s why they didn’t overturn the decision,” he said.

Annesley refused to be drawn into whether he personally viewed the decision as a correct one.

“I’m not going to say if it should or should not have been a penalty. It comes down completely to the individual’s point of view,” he said.

“It’s a genuine 50/50 call. There’ll be mixed views about it and I understand both positions.

“I certainly don’t believe that it’s a ‘howler’, that many people have referred to it as. This is a very, very tight decision. 

“And in these sort of decisions that are so technical, I don’t think we should be throwing people under the bus.”

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