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Referee Gavin Badger.

NRL referees boss Bernard Sutton will report directly to the game's new head of elite football operations Graham Annesley in a move aimed at ensuring there is a greater emphasis on free flowing and entertaining football.

In his first press conference since agreeing to leave the Gold Coast Titans at the end of last season to return to the NRL, Annesley said he would be taking a hands-on approach to dealing with those responsible for controlling matches.

The change is effectively a return to the previous structure in place until this year when Tony Archer was promoted to the role of NRL national manager of referees, with Sutton under him.

Archer is set to be appointed to a new role within the NRL but Annesley will now oversee the referees.

"I have made some internal decisions about reporting lines so the referees boss, Bernard Sutton, will report directly to me from now on about all matters relating to policy and operational issues surrounding the Telstra Premiership," Annesley said.

"I've taken it back to what it is because if I am going to be held accountable for what happens on the field then the person who has most impact over the match officials and how they perform needs to be reporting directly to me.

"The referees are employees of the game and they have got a very critical role in the outcome of matches and they need to be taking operational policy directives from the game's administration so the best way for me to do that is to have a direct line to the people who are responsible for that."

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Luke Ellis will be responsible for pathways while Annesley's main focus is on the Telstra Premiership and Holden NRL Women's Premiership.

"My objective really is to try and deliver on the NRL's strategic plan, of which one of the objectives is to promote free-flowing and exciting football so that is what we will be trying to do," Annesley said.

He spent a night watching the Bunker in action during the finals series and backed the NRL's video review system.  

"It is very impressive, the technology is unbelievable," Annesley said. "I know that there are many other sports, not only in Australia but around the world, who have been to have a look at the Bunker and they are all equally impressed with it.

"But like any technology it is only as good as the people operating it. Someone has to sit in judgement and make a final decision so we have got to make sure we have got the best, most qualified and well trained people making those decisions."

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Annesley will join the NRL competition committee for a two-day review of the 2018 season, which will include studying the impact of reducing the number of interchanges from 10 to eight per team.

There are suggestions the number could be further reduced to six but that is unlikely to happen for next season.

"There is no recommendation going to the competition committee, there is a lot of information and a lot of data that is going to be presented and then we will have an open discussion about it," Annesley said.

"There could be some action taken immediately, there could be a time frame put in place or it could be decided that where we are now is the right number."

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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