NRL fans have been left scratching their heads after the league ruled that field goals kicked from outside the 40m line will now be worth two points in 2021.
After a successful 2020 season, the NRL has confirmed a number of new rules in order to make the game faster, more free-flowing and entertaining for fans.
The two-point field goal rule, joins a new “Six Again” rule which will replace 10 metre infringement penalties in order to reduce stoppages in the game.
Referees will still have the ability to blow a penalty as well as sin bin players who make repeated 10m infringements or in the case of professional fouls.
The “Six Again” rule replacing the 10 metre infringements was trialled during two matches in Round 20 of the 2020 season.
The third new rule will be involving scrums. The referee will now call “break” when he or she is satisfied that the ball is out of a scrum.
Players will not be allowed to break from a scrum until the call is made by the referee. If players break before the call, the referee will award a full penalty.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said the rule changes would lead to faster and more unpredictable games.
“These innovations will lead to less stoppages, more unpredictability and increased excitement for our fans,” he said in an NRL statement on Friday.
“The message from the fans and our broadcasters has been clear; the game became too predictable and the balance between attack and defence had gone too far in favour of defence.
“Our changes last year were successful in addressing some of those challenges and the changes announced today will take the element of unpredictability and entertainment a step further.
“You’ve got to give the customer what they want. We want to attract new fans to our game and we want our current fans to keep coming back to watch games live at the ground or on TV. It was important to understand what they want.
However, while V’landys was a fan of the team’s continual rule changes, the same could not be said for fans, who especially took issue with the two-point field goal rule.
V’landys added that the rule changes ushered in for the 2020 season were a success.
“It is clear the new innovations last season were a success. You only have to look at the data, there were more tries, more line breaks and more minutes of ball in play and the response from our fans and players has been positive,” he said.
“In particular, the Six Again rule has addressed the biggest issue that was in the game and that was the wrestle. The changes have sped up the ruck and made the game more free flowing which is exactly what the Commission wanted to see.”
FULL RULE CHANGES FOR 2021 NRL SEASON
Two-points for field goals outside 40m line
To encourage more unstructured play and increase the chances of a result changing in the final moments of a game, a 2-point field goal will be awarded for teams who kick a field goal from outside the 40m line.
Six Again for 10 metre infringements
To reduce stoppages in the game, 10 metre infringement penalties will be replaced with a “Six Again” ruling. Referees maintain the ability to blow a penalty and sin bin a player if a side has made repeated 10m infringements or in the case of professional fouls.
To increase the integrity of scrums, the referee will call “BREAK” when he or she is satisfied the ball is out of a scrum. Players will not be permitted to break from a scrum until the referee makes the call. Where players break before the call of “BREAK”, the referee will award a full penalty. The team receiving the penalty will also have the option of re-packing the scrum. If the scrum is re-packed and players again break early a further penalty will be awarded and one of the offending players will be sent to the sin bin.
Play the ball restart after ball or player finds touch
When the ball is kicked or carried into touch play will resume with a play the ball rather than a scrum. This rule was trialled in two games during the final round of last season.
Handover for incorrect play the ball
A handover will be ordered where players do not make a genuine attempt to play the ball with their foot. This will ensure greater compliance to the rule and integrity around the play the ball, without increasing penalty stoppages.
In cases where a Captain’s Challenge review is inconclusive, the on-field decision will stand but the team will retain their challenge. Fans have expressed frustration with teams losing a challenge where replays prove inconclusive, this will ensure a greater opportunity for teams to have a challenges available later in matches.
Where the on-field referee believes a try is scored the referee will award a try and the bunker will review the decision in the background. A conversion attempt will not be permitted until the bunker is satisfied a try has been scored. This will ensure even less stoppage time and ensure momentum in the game continues. This rule was trialled in two games during the final round of last season.
In 2021, where a trainer asks a match official to stop the game for an injury, the injured player must be either interchanged or taken off the field for a period of two minutes of elapsed game time before he is permitted to resume his place on the field. This will reduce the number of stoppages for minor injuries.