“That’s why [coach] Trent [Robinson] brought me on board three years ago, so the Roosters had a better understanding of the way referees thought,” James told the Herald.
“That was all about making us better, trying to work with the referees more and understand what they want in different situations.
“This time now is no different to what it was three years ago – we continue to train to be as disciplined as we can, try to work with the referees and not against them.”
James downplayed the advantage he gave the premiers as they attempt to post their first win of the season against arch-rivals South Sydney.
“I do referee training but I don’t think anyone knows how [the new rules] will go down,” James said.
“It’s uncharted territory. We have to continue on life as normal and worry about ourselves and it will work itself out over the first round of the competition.”
Asked whether the game would be fundamentally different under the new rules, James said: “I don’t think it will have the change that everyone thinks it’s going to make. The eight referees that go out there – and I know them fairly well – they will continue to referee the ruck in the same way.
“For us at the Roosters, we will continue to work on what we work on. Games will get into a bit of a flow and rhythm. The players are just going to have to do a bit more with them.
“They will get into the natural rhythm of the game and understand what the referee will and won’t accept. You can overthink what the referees are going to do and then you move away from your core principles.”
The referees union is pushing back on the NRL’s decision to revert to one whistle-blower. The stoush will be decided at arbitration after conciliation talks at the Fair Work Commission broke down on Tuesday. James had his own battle with the NRL after he was allegedly sacked without explanation in 2017. The parties reached a confidential settlement.
An arbitration hearing date is yet to be determined in the NRL’s latest battle with the referees.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.