Faster restarts of play and improving player safety are among the key rule and interpretation changes for the 2014 Telstra Premiership season.
Significantly, more than 11,000 NRL members and fans were engaged in the review process through the NRL Nation online survey.
“These changes will enhance entertainment for fans and increase safety for players,” said NRL Head of Football, Mr Todd Greenberg.
“It has involved an extensive review process that started with members and fans through the NRL Nation and has involved all NRL clubs and coaches and the game’s Competition Committee.”
The rule and interpretation changes for the 2014 Telstra Premiership season, which will also apply to the Holden State of Origin Series, AAMI City-Country and the Holden Cup, are:
ZERO TACKLE FROM 20m RESTART: The first tackle after a 20m optional kick will be called a zero tackle. The rule change provides an extra tackle to discourage tactical kicks and negative play when the ball is kicked dead to slow down the game and deny wingers and fullbacks the chance to return kicks.
40/20 RESTARTS: The team that performs a 40/20 kick will restart play with a tap kick 20m in from the touch at the point it crossed the line instead of at a scrum.
RESTARTS FROM KICKS OUT ON FULL: A handover will be awarded when the ball is kicked out on the full on any tackle.
STOP THE CLOCK: During the last five minutes of a match, the clock will stop following a conversion or penalty kick at goal until play restarts at halfway.
The interpretation change will add excitement during close matches, provide consistency across matches and reduce potential time-wasting.
QUICK TAPS: A quick penalty restart will be permitted on any infringement except 10m penalties, where the referee issues a caution or within 10m of the opposition goal line. The interpretation change encourages more continuous play.
CAPTAIN COMMUNICATION: Captains will only be able to speak to referees during a stoppage in play (tries, injury break or when referee is issuing a caution). Penalties and scrums are not considered stoppages of play. Captains will be given an opportunity to speak to the referees as players leave the field for half-time.
GOAL-KICKING TIME LIMIT: The referee will call time-off at approximately 1min 20sec following the scoring of a try. Fines will still apply to clubs when a player takes longer than 1min 40sec to take a conversion.
CANNONBALL TACKLES: When a player is being held in an upright position by two defenders, any additional tackler must make initial contact to the player in possession above the knee. In addition, referees will be instructed to call held earlier on upright tackles to deter unnecessary third-man tackles.
CRUSHER TACKLES: The Match Review Committee will be directed to charge crusher tackles at the higher end of the scale to provide a greater deterrent.
MATCH REVIEW PANEL: NRL Match Review Committee member Michael Buettner will become the Match Review Co-ordinator in 2014, replacing the retired Greg McCallum. Former Eels, Raiders, Titans and Bulldogs player Michael Hodgson will join the Match Review Committee panel.
The ARL Commission has also approved the continued trial of the Captain’s Challenge concept in televised Holden Cup matches.
The Competition Committee includes NRL CEO Dave Smith, ARL Commissioner and former international Wayne Pearce, NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg, NRL General Manager of Football Operations Nathan McGuirk, Australian coach Tim Sheens, NRL coaches Wayne Bennett and Trent Robinson, former NRL coaches Daniel Anderson and John Lang, former players Darren Lockyer and Andrew Ryan, plus NRL Referees Elite Performance Manager Tony Archer.
The review process has been in development for five months and began with fan feedback through the NRL Nation’s online fan survey, followed by assessment with the NRL Competition Committee, engagement and consultation with all the 16 NRL clubs and coaches and final recommendations by the NRL Competition Committee to the ARL Commission.