At a time when the NRL needs the majority of its stakeholders on the same page, I’m somewhat surprised that the decision has been made to introduce a rule change as significant as the six again call.
In my opinion, and let me stress that it’s my opinion and I hope to be wrong, this is a poorly conceived rule thrust upon this year’s Premiership without the benefit of a proper road test.
Adding to my apprehension, reports are emerging that a significant number of prominent players and coaches had voiced their opposition when consulted, yet such concerns have been seemingly brushed aside.
Sharks playmaker, Chad Townsend has spoken out against the change and his objections seem typical of many others – “ I don’t like the six restart proposal and I don’t like the fact that proposals are being put forward at this time. It’s just a time to continue with the product we’ve got.”
And the question must be asked, what is so wrong with our game that integral changes such as one referee AND a six again ruck call are being shoved through just before the May 28 reboot? We have a product that has the opportunity to be showcased to a world calling out for broadcasts of competitive team sports, yet we choose to complicate it for our own participants and supporters. It seems ludicrous!
Whilst we shouldn’t judge the validity of a rule change on the basis of the opinions of players and coaches alone, these blokes are the ones tasked with playing under changed conditions with only a couple of weeks notice.
But let’s not leave it there. Let’s also consider the major player in this rule change – the referee.
It is surely counterintuitive to introduce a new ruck rule at the exact time that the second referee, the ruck referee, is removed from the game.
Have the powers that be forgotten about the increased one-on-one strips that two refs had to adjudicate last year? Have they forgotten about other rule changes such as captain’s challenge and scrum positioning?
And what about the biggest stakeholders of all – the fans?
I can only express my opinion in this post, but I hope that platforms such as TCT or other social media sites are used by fans to express their views.
As a supporter, I feel as if the rule has been rushed through under my guard. In the past, when rules have been changed, or at least the interpretations of rules, I’d know that the change was coming. I’d witness significant chunks of preseason training dedicated to opposed sessions with referees applying said rules.
As an individual who’s passionate about the game and its rules, this lack of preparation afforded to players, coaches and referees infuriates me.
Such a significant rule change should have been trialled for a season across Canterbury Cup, Flegg, Ron Massey and Sydney Shield competitions. Data and feedback needed to be gathered and analysed before a decision was made about its introduction to NRL matches. This could have taken place in 2021.
Potential scenarios such as inconsistent application of the rule, or teams not having the opportunity to kick for goal in tight games, can’t be explored or debated at this point because it’s never been faced across multiple games.
But above all else, with just two weeks until the competition kicks off, the implementation of this rule has as much clarity as a schoolie on a Bali bender. It’s a rule, that for all intents and purposes, seems to have been made on the run.
We can and should do better than that.