Australia

Player backlash arrives within hours of NRL’s latest proposal to speed up game

Queensland State of Origin representative and director at the Rugby League Players Association, Christian Welch, has slammed the NRL’s intention to look at a new rule that would punish teams who find touch with kicks.

Welch tweeted on Friday morning begging with administrators not to administer another rule change.

“Please just leave our game alone,” he said.

“The tension, grind, pressure and game management [are] almost already gone.

“Would love the [Australian Rugby League] commission [to pursue] less gimmicking with the rules and more focus on bigger picture strategy.”

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported on Friday morning that the NRL’s innovation committee was to discuss bringing in a rule that would give teams a seven tackle set if their opponents kick the ball over the sideline, with the exception of 40-20s and 20-40s.

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Rugby League Commissioner Wayne Pearce said he wanted to propose to the committee a new disincentive for kicking the ball out.

“At the moment, when a ball gets kicked into touch, there’s a turnover and the team can have it in the middle of the field or wherever they want to have it,” he said.

“Sometimes players can’t help going into touch or the ball getting passed into touch, but if the ball is deliberately kicked into touch, then there should be some sort of disincentive.

Former Balmain and NSW player Wayne Pearce wants to discourage kickers from managing fatigue.(

AAP: Brendan Esposito

)

“So rather than dead-in-goal, the whole perimeter of the field – if the ball gets kicked out of bounds — then there’s a seven-tackle restart.

The NRL introduced a rule this season that meant a play-the-ball would replace a scrum after a ball was kicked out, theoretically reducing the time before play resumes.

But it’s made little difference.

When asked how the new rule had affected his kicking game, Rabbitohs halfback Adam Renolds said there hadn’t been any meaningful change.

“We like to think we’re a pretty fit team, and want to keep the ball in play as much as we can,” he said.

“My kicking game doesn’t really change, it’s about putting teams in corners, trying tee off our [defence], and from there we can hope they make a mistake and we can capitalise with good field position.”

The NRL has received criticism for introducing set restarts to replace offside penalties this year because it has limited the ability for inferior teams to manage their own fatigue.

Players have been vocal in arguing against the rules and complaining they were not consulted.

Traditionally, finding touch in rugby league has been a skill developed by kickers to give forwards a rest.

Pearce said the suggestion was only his proposal and the rest of the innovation committee had yet to be consulted.


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