The NRL this year has been excellent, arguably the best season we have seen in many years.
The footy has been more open and less mechanical than the boring ‘five tackles and kick’ field territory and possession strategy that has made us feel sleepy during some matches in the recent past.
Rugby league is at its absolute best when there is broken play and risk taking and when each team attacks differently to one another.
However, there is room to take things to an even greater level of entertainment and drama with some subtle and practical rule changes. Let’s get into looking at the top five rule changes that could make the NRL a better spectacle than any sport in the world today.
1. Attacking kick tackle count restart In rugby league at the moment there is little reward for players who possess and exercise a skilful short kicking game, whether it be a chip and chase or a grubber. Cross-field kicks to unmarked wingers are discouraged by coaches and labelled low percentage ‘trick shots’ due to the fact the likely outcomes are either the ball in touch, a turnover or a retrieval with little ground gained for the attacking team.
A tackle count restart for attacking kicks that travel at least ten metres will encourage someone with a dangerous short kicking game, like Mitchell Moses, to chance his arm and take on the defence with attacking kick options. We also don’t see enough of those surprising types of cross-field kicks to outside backs, setting up an exciting foot race.
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2. ‘Player off’ power plays This idea borrows from the concept of power plays in cricket. The captain of each team under this idea can choose one player from the other team to go off the field for ten minutes during the match. The team that wins the toss gets to choose if they use the power play in the first half or second half. A 12-point ball game with ten minutes on the clock would all of a sudden not look like it is all over if the team trailing have a ‘power play’ they can use.
3. Abolish penalty goals Nobody wants to watch the kicking tee come out for a penalty goal at any point in a match. There is nothing entertaining about penalty goals. There is also no greater anti-climax during a golden point contest than a match decided by a penalty goal kick. If we want to watch penalty goals, we would buy a season ticket to Super Rugby.
4. Unlimited golden point The way this would work is a player from each team would come off every five minutes during extra time. This increases the chances of scoring for each team every time the number of players on the field decreases.
5. Abolish scrums Scrums are a relic and nothing but time-wasters. They no longer have any real function in the NRL. The only argument – that they allow sweeping backline movements without forwards in the way – is redundant. The ball is usually given to a bullocking winger off a ‘scrum win’ to hit the ball up. Centres are now specialists on either the left or right side, with the man on their inside usually a backrower that also operates exclusively down that channel of the field.
What is wrong with just a turnover for knock-ons or a tap restart for kicks going into touch? It is ridiculous watching teams in the dying seconds hurriedly trying to organise six blokes to pack a scrum while the ref stands there waiting for the other team who show no interest in rushing in to pack a ‘scrum’.
So there you go. Over to you for debate and discussion.