Refs Playing for Bonus

National Rugby League (NRL) referees have a new incentive to perform to a high standard, with bonuses of $A10,000 being offered if they can get through the 2004 season without being dropped from first grade.

The scheme has been made possible by the retirement last season of fulltime referee Bill Harrigan.

His salary will be freed up to allow the remaining referees to share a bigger financial purse.

Referees, who are paid $A1600 a game, will be rewarded financially on a sliding scale for the number of consecutive matches under their control in first grade.

Under the new scheme, eight consecutive first grade appearances will result in a $A2000 bonus, 16 will secure an additional $A3000 and those who make it through to the end of the season will pocket an extra $A5000.

Touch judges, or sideline officials as the NRL prefers to call them this season, have also been included in the scheme.

They receive $A800 a game and have the potential to earn an extra $A1000 for eight consecutive games, $A1500 for 16 and $A2000 for 26.

"By putting these targets in place it just gives them a little extra incentive to maintain their position because they know there's more dollars attached to it if they can do that," NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley said.

"They have to stay in form because if they get dropped for even one game then they go back to the bottom of the tree and start all over again."