RUGBY LEAGUE: Trio face referee reports

BY DAVE HADFIELD

Three First Division players will tomorrow become the first to face disciplinary action under the new machinery that allows referees to place them on report if he suspects that a foul has been committed.

Leeds' New Zealand international forward, Gary Mercer, could miss his club's Challenge Cup semi-final against Featherstone in 10 days' time if he is suspended for a dangerous throw. Paul Broadbent, of Sheffield Eagles, faces a similar charge from the same match, while Gordon Lynch, of Doncaster, will face an accusation of tripping after being reported in the game against Featherstone.

Greg McCallum, the referees' coaching director, introduced the reporting system, which already operates in his native Australia, earlier this month, but these three are the first reported players to be found to have a case to answer.

Mercer and Broadbent are also victims of another McCallum initiative: a clampdown on lifting opponents in a way that often leads to a dangerous spear tackle. Martin Hall, the Wigan hooker, who could have missed the semi-final against Oldham this Saturday, has been found to have no case to answer on a similar charge.

Another McCallum innovation will be tested for the first time next week, when the Second Division game between Huddersfield and Bramley will be the first in Britain to have in-goal judges in operation.

An extra official positioned behind the dead-ball line at each end will be available to rule on the legality of tries. The system has operated successfully in Australia for two years.

Sheffield Eagles' matches at home to Salford on 2 April and Oldham on 9 April will also be played with in-goal judges and McCallum will be at all three games to assess the effectiveness of the trial. It is significant, however, that the two grounds at which the trials are being held - the McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield and the Don Valley Stadium - are the most modern in the game, with plenty of room for in-goal judges to roam across the width of the pitch. Other grounds will not lend themselves so easily to the system.

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