James Graham takes aim at 'unacceptable' NRL drama amid radical plan to overhaul bunker

A fed up Graham says something has to change after more contentious NRL bunker drama.

James Graham has put forward a radical proposal to overhaul the NRL's bunker system after another week of controversies in round nine. Graham was fuming after Melbourne's controversial win against Gold Coast, after the bunker ruled Jojo Fifita stripped the ball off Nick Meaney and awarded the Storm a last-minute penalty that killed off any hopes of a miracle Titans comeback.

The NRL great was also left perplexed that the video officials awarded a try to Phil Sami, following a dubious grounding against the Storm. The bunker's decision to award the try even left Sami shocked, with cameras picking up a cheeky look on the Gold Coast player's face that suggested he got away with what most thought was a knock on.

James Graham has put forward a plan to fix the NRL bunker after describing some recent decisions as 'unacceptable'. Pic: Getty/Fox League
James Graham has put forward a plan to fix the NRL bunker after describing some recent decisions as 'unacceptable'. Pic: Getty/Fox League

Souths winger Izaac Thompson was also awarded a dubious try in his side's loss against Penrith after appearing to bounce the ball over the line during a tackle from Sunia Turuva. Those decisions came less than a week after NRL head of football Graham Annesley backed the bunker's decision not to award Wests Tigers captain Api Koroisau a try against Brisbane after minimal separation between the ball and his hand before he planted it on the try line. That decision sparked plenty of uproar and led to the NRL slapping Phil Gould with a $20,000 fine for his criticism.

The bunker also came under fire in round nine for not awarding the Warriors a penalty try against Newcastle when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was tackled in the air over the try line by Knights winger Greg Marzhew. The Warriors flyer lost the ball over the line as a result of the illegal play but the bunker only deemed it worthy of a penalty, leaving Warriors players fuming.

A fed-up Graham echoed the thoughts of many frustrated fans when speaking about the most recent bunker controversies on Monday night's episode of NRL 360. The Bulldogs great labelled the inconsistencies around some of the rulings and the number of mistakes that the bunker keeps making as "unacceptable", before proposing a solution to the issue.

Pictured left is Wests Tigers star Api Koroisau and Souths winger Izaac Thompson on the right.
Wests Tigers star Api Koroisau was denied a try by the bunker one week before Souths winger Izaac Thompson was awarded one in similar circumstances. Pic: Fox League

“We appreciate there’s difficult decisions to make, but there was some that were made by the Bunker that are unacceptable to the players who work so hard,” he said on NRL 360. “It’s unacceptable and not fair to the coaches that dedicate so much of their time. It’s not acceptable to the fans that dedicate their time around their team’s fixtures.

“That have their tipping competitions, SuperCoach competitions, all those stakeholders whose weekend is determined positively or negatively on the results of their team. I accept there are some decisions that are 50/50, that will create debate, and there is grey areas in the game, but there’s decisions made on the weekend that were clearly one way or the other and they got them wrong.”

Graham says in order to make the bunker more effective, the NRL should introduce a three-person panel made up of former players, coaches and match officials to adjudicate on crucial calls - independently from one another. “Bring other people in from different backgrounds of the game, like coaches, like players and we need an official in there no doubt,” Graham said.


“I personally would like to see a three section panel, and they can’t communicate with each other. You’ve got a former coach, a former player and a current match official. And they all have their say, that decision goes to someone else and they take majority rule.

“These are just howlers, and we can see what’s going on there, but some of these were just wrong.” Fellow league greats and NRL 360 panellists Braith Anasta and Gorden Tallis both backed the proposal from Graham after agreeing that some of the calls in round nine were simply not good enough.

“The weekend was a disgrace, it’s been bad,” Anasta said. “It’s who you pick, we can go and get ex-players but you’ve got to get the best of the best. You have to incentivise it... you go to one of the best judges in the game. They are out there.” Tallis added: “You get a recently retired player who is honest. You look at Dale Finucane and Luke Keary. And if they come in, the latest retired players would know the trends sitting with other players.”