In 2007, former International Ice Hockey Federation referee Rick Williams and ex-professional goalie David Turik introduced the Video Review Room to then National Rugby League COO Graham Annesley. Williams, who refereed several World Championships and an Olympic Consolation knew Mr Annesley when they both worked for News Limited.
“My business partner David Turik is a huge Rugby League supporter and like many fans, was concerned about officiating decision potentially affecting games. With this, David suggested we talk to the National Hockey Leagues Video Review Room”, said Williams. The NHL has used the “bunker” concept since 2002 and the advantages have improved the replay judging system for all, including fans, coaches, players and broadcasters. According to Sports Illustrated (March 20th, 2006) “The NHL does get video review better than any other league”.
Ice Hockey Australia is an affiliate with the NHL, which was set-up by Williams. “I got hold of Mike Murphy who is Senior Vice President of NHL Operations and in charge of the Video Review Room. Mike sent me a PowerPoint on the Video Review presented to the League’s Team General Managers, the year prior (2006), which highlighted the effectiveness of the innovative system. David Turik and I presented this to Graham Annesley who got it right away”, said Williams.
In 2013, then NRL Referee’s boss ‘Daniel Anderson’ invited both Turik and Williams to see the Leagues system. “My first concern was the video referee at the grounds. We were at ANZ Stadium and as soon as there was a review, about 20,000 fans turned around and looked at us in the box, which put enormous pressure on the Video Referee. The other challenge that the NHL players, coaches and fans wanted was consistency, which was exactly what the NRL was striving for. By having a smaller group of Video Referee’s, the NRL, its players, coaches and fans will get no surprises that consistency brings to the table”, said Williams.
Later that year, in November, after communication with NRL guru Todd Greenberg, Williams and Turik organised for General Manager of Football Operations ‘Nathan McGuirk’ and Referee’s boss ‘Tony Archer’ to visit the War Room and game night in Toronto. Williams also went along to assist the boys with the similarities between Rugby League and Ice Hockey.
“Both Nathan and Tony were very impressed with the technology in Toronto as well as how professional the system was. We also took Nathan and Tony to New Jersey where they attended a New Jersey Devils and LA Kings game to see how the system works at the actual venue”, said Williams.
“This has been a work in progress for 9 years and David and I are excited about the Bunker Room now being launched for the upcoming 2016 Season. We are pleased that our role was beneficial to the NRL who continue to be technology leaders in Australian sport”, said Williams.