So, here we slow again - Exploiting new rules for faster play

So, here we slow again


New NRL rules will result in more sixagain calls from referees this season.

Exploiting new rules for faster play

RUGBY league must be the only game in the world where the moment a rule is introduced to improve the game’s quality the very people it is intended to benefit set about finding ways to exploit it.

Referees have been working with clubs all summer to school them on the new rules introduced last December and how they will work when the season begins next month.

The coaches took the news of the new rules philosophically, which is to say they spent their summer conjuring ways to exploit them to their best advantage.

It is the game’s most reliable economy, that of cause and effect.

The effort and ingenuity put into exploiting the rules, and the referees’ consistent interpretation of those rules, is worthy of a certain kind of shadowy admiration.

Among the changes are a six-again call when defenders are offside, instead of a penalty, as it used to be. This stops teams deliberately standing offside to concede a penalty to reset their defence.

“It should mean less stoppages, more fatigue, more open play,” NRL head of football Graham Annesley said yesterday, with admirable conviction.

Injured players who need play stopped will be interchanged. This prevents players from faking an injury to stop the game and earn their team a rest when under duress in defence.

P l a y will restart with a play-the-ball instead of a scrum when a player goes into touch, a shift to stop the time wasting from another scrum.

The new rules are designed to speed up play and increase fatigue and reintroduce certain manly qualities some say have been lost from the game.

But already coaches are exploring new ways to disguise wrestling and conjuring ways to use the new rules against themselves.

For example, some clubs are already planning to kick the ball into touch instead of trying to jam it into a corner, which kept the ball in play.

Their fear is by playing transition football, going from attack straight into defence without a restart, which brings a higher chance of fatigue, they might concede a six-again call after tackle two or three, turning it into an eight or nine-tackle set.

Which brings more fatigue.

Given the quality of ball carriers who make up the back three at some clubs, the strong running fullbacks and wingers so difficult to contain, coaches are paranoid about conceding a six again against the strength of their runs.

They figure a play-the-ball restart allows them to reset their defence before the referee restarts play.

Another benefit is it allows the attacking side time to get its forwards back to take the early hit-ups, which is easier to defend against than dynamic back threes such as a Ryan Papenhuyzen straight into a Josh Addo-Carr straight into a do-your-best. So essentially it takes the kick returns of the likes of James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic out of play, for which it was not intended. “The whole intention of it is to give more compliance for the rules without stopping the game as much,” Annesley said.

“It’s a constant battle between enforcement of the rules and coaches trying to use the rules to their own advantage.”

Astute readers will note, though, that a rule was introduced some years ago for basically the opposite reason.

Billy Slater was so dangerous on the kick return, teams deliberately kicked the ball dead, forcing a restart and preventing Slater from returning the ball in broken play.

So the seven-tackle, 20m restart was introduced to discourage the negative ploy. Now, teams will effectively be putting it over the sideline to achieve the same result.

Some coaches are practising trapping the ball in the scrum, or calling “break”, to catch backrowers breaking early from a scrum, which is now a penalty.

The penalty is no longer a differential, meaning scrum penalties could now decide results, something that makes coaches very nervous.

On the flip side, coaches are also worried about being unable to break early when scrums are still fed into the second row, giving the attack a tremendous advantage.

The most concerning part of the new rules is they are artificial ways to counteract the influence of the wrestle in the game without actually addressing the wrestle itself.

So naturally coaches have been ramping up their wrestling strategies, mostly working hard to disguise it, in a bid to win the ruck.

Some coaches are moving away from the third defender pinning the knees, for example, to have the third defender instead pick up a single leg and spin the ball runner around to delay the play-the-ball.

It deceptively looks like there is still movement in the tackle, delaying a call of “held”, even though the ballrunner has no realistic hope of either breaking the tackle or offloading.

Worse, it is disguised as a harmless tackle but is dangerous enough to wishbone a ball runner.

Until the referees get on top of these strategies, the rest is just window dressing.

1 Like

I’m not so sure about this latest round of rule changes.

Seriously, where does it all end.

In 2 or 3 years time do we have a game without penalties at all - just a whole heap of 6 again’s until a team scores…

Keep the offside penalty - if a team does it twice in a row then bin the player for 10 minutes. Coaches will soon be telling their players not to be offside.

We need to be really careful as a game that we don’t get too far away from the actual game of rugby league. This isn’t touch, or oztag.


Stop the rot with allowing quick taps to be taken anytime.
No warnings for repeat penalties. If it’s deliberate, bin them.
Get rid of the 7 tackle set. The threat of giving one away is hindering attack.

I knew a raft of rule changes were set to be introduced this season in an effort to speed the game up, but I was not aware that scrum penalties would no longer be considered differential.

Giving a team six again instead of a penalty for offside play is going to be an interesting one.

I trust ref’s will still be able to blow penalties for repeated defensive infringements & the rule change does not discourage them from binning players for repeated defensive infringements.


My very real concern is that Referee’s have way too much discretion in pulling a 6 again out of their pocket when ever it suits.
The Refs have too much power and answer to no one.


This is only heightened by the most recent changes.

With no stoppage in play and the game just rolling on there is no review of that “penalty” to see if it was warranted.

It’s a bit of a dogs breakfast if you ask me.


They are not rules now, just exploitable guidelines with interpretations dependent on the ref. Anyone for Rafferty’s rules?


I want scrums, even if they aren’t contested… Scrums are Rugby League.


As Gould would say - No,No,No! - to scrum penalties.

It will decide games and be hugely controversial, just as it was in the past.

I remember a game in the 70s against the Dragons where Bob McMillan ( mighty mouse) was penalised for a second row feed with minutes left on the clock from which the Dragons kicked the penalty goal and won the game.

After the match mighty mouse was asked if he did feed the ball in the second row to which he replied ‘yes, I did, but I fed it into the Dragons second row, not ours, so as not to be penalised.’

As GIthe king posted above- a dog’s breakfast is coming.


Lets captains challenge that

I heard the NRL is ditching the term Rugby League and rebranding it to NRL Passball.

I think if policed properly making the attacker get to both feet and play the ball will even it out and the speed will be roughly the same as last year.

As good as Murray is at getting up quick to play it I don’t like the way he plays it and don’t think it’s a proper play the ball at times.

You should have to be standing before playing it.

I agree Liver in that every player should firstly get to his feet before playing the ball but, the Refs have to be consistent at making that happen.

I reckon they should allow a challenge at the play the ball like it once was would fix a lot of the play the ball problems


It would slow it down enough to make that little bit of difference
My footy coach in under 8s would have slapped the shit out of me if I played the ball as bad as some today.
They went soft on putting the foot on the ball again last season. They have to knock that shit on the head.
That’s when it does look like oztag


I would like to make 3 suttle changes

1 - ball must be raised 1m above the ground before playing it in a tackle

2 - tap kicks - ball placed on the ground and tapped with the foot

3 - return to the 5m rule in attack and defence


I agree the second 2 Siv, the first one will be hard to police for the refs

I would amend that to both of the player’s legs on the ground standing upright
with the ball must be held above the groin height before playing the ball.

Ref’s at times cannot see a forward pass, let alone knowing how high is 1metre is. You may have a player who is only 1.75m tall, but a metre would put the ball at around his chest.