The NRL has conducted secret tests on a prototype for a video referees' bunker and is sufficiently encouraged by the results to keep pushing towards implementing the technology.
The NRL has engagedformer Australian cricket coach John Buchanan and league Immortal Bob Fulton to oversee a widespread review of the refereeing ranks.
The priority is to investigate the feasibility of a "central command centre" in which video referees can review contentious decisions.
Fairfax Media can reveal the governing body has already trialled a version of the bunker this year in which officials reviewed decisions in real time.
While video refs normally have their choices of vision dictated to by the host broadcaster, those in the bunker utilised Hawkeye technology.
This allowed them to see all of the different camera angles and replay options in a single room and then decide which ones they wish to look at, and in which order.
"We trialled it in two or three games early in the season at [Allianz Stadium]," said the NRL's head of football, Todd Greenberg.
"What we picked up from the Hawkeye technology was we had greater control over those replays and the speed of those replays. We found the average decision-making time was quicker. You don't have to wait for someone to give you a feed, you're actually seeing them all and saying 'I'll take that one, then that one'.
"That actually speeds the process up, giving the video referee the opportunity to call the shots."
The next step is setting up further bunker trials at an off-site location, as the initial tests were conducted at the ground. The NRL is hoping to be in a position to do this by the mid-point of the 2015 season.
"If we're going to genuinely trial the bunker, we understand if the speed and access away from the ground is instantaneous," Greenberg said.
The bunker system is already used in American sports including the NHL and NFL. League officials inspected those facilities during the last off-season and another study trip may be conducted as it is determined whether the system is worth the seven-figure investment.
Buchanan and Fulton will continue to monitor that process and other potential changes to the officiating ranks.
Buchanan spent preliminary final weekend with the video referees, met with ref's boss Tony Archer and was present for the match review process. Fulton will enjoy similar access during parts of the Four Nations tournament.
One potential innovation for them to consider is captain's challenge, which has been trialled throughout the NYC competition. However, the preliminary feedback suggests there is considerable work to do.
"We've collected all of the data from the 20s … at the moment, decisions can take up to 2½ minutes, which is cumbersome," Greenberg said.
"Until we find a technology piece that goes with that to speed the process up, we won't go with it [in the NRL]."
Chief Rugby League Reporter