Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

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josie andrews
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Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by josie andrews » Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:50 am

Six new rules were introduced for the 2021 season, which the governing body hopes will speed up the game and improve the spectacle;

Round two of Betfred Super League begins with Wigan Warriors vs Wakefield Trinity, live on Sky Sports Arena from 5.30pm on Thursday.

Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league and whether they are turning people off the sport...

Another season, another set of new rules - and I thought rugby league was supposed to be the simple code of rugby.

The RFL/Super League say that they have been brought in to:

- Increase the speed of the game
- Create a better flow
- Improve the spectacle

I thought back to the Grand Final of 2020 and wondered what was wrong with that match. It made me wonder who owns the rights to the rules, and what responsibility they should bear to whom?

What do players, coaches, owners, broadcasters and spectators really want?

Who said that the game needed to be quicker? What is the problem with the flow - and how will these new rules fix that? What exactly do we mean when we say that we want to improve the spectacle?

There is no mention of player safety here. If you speed the game up, do you increase the risk of more concussion injuries - and are we restricting the number of people who can play?

What effect could that have on increasing participation? A part of me worries that we are making the game more exclusive, not inclusive. Are we making the game more fun to play?

That has to be one of the most important aspects of any sport. It is also worth noting here that the bedrock of any sport's fans are the people who play, or have played.

The first rules for a rugby match were written back in 1845. They make up just less than three sides of A4. Online, a Wakefield fan - Nigel Trueman - has put together a brilliant summary of the changes that have been made to the sport between then and 2012. You can see the full 'Development of British Rugby League' list here.

Reading some of them made me laugh.

The original "golden point" meant that a match was classified as a draw after five DAYS, if there wasn't a clear winner!

By the 1870s, the governing body had published a 17-page booklet which were the first real laws of the game. Over the next 100 years or so, there were a variety of changes - until we started to see an increase in the frequency and number of rule changes from the 1980s.

In 1991, we chose to make ball stealing illegal. In 1996, we decided ball stealing was allowed, if it was one-on-one. We then discouraged it again, once more than one defender had been in contact with the ball carrier - before reintroducing it again this year, assuming it is one-on-one at the point of ball theft.

Four changes in 30 years - to one aspect of play. We have some rules, like the one when the scoring side kicks off, which lasted only a year, and others that might last a decade before we revert back to what we had 20 years before.

What research is done before introducing a rule and then removing it 12 months later?

In 1999, we introduced the 40/20 rule - and have this year just introduced the 20/40. Why?

At the same time as I hear so much about making the game faster, we have referees who prevent players from taking a quick tap penalty. Someone, somewhere, decided that you are allowed a quick-tap 20-metre restart - but NOT a quick-tap penalty.

Back in 2008, we decided to ban the loose forward, or player at the back of the scrum, from holding the ball in at his/her feet. This year, they can trap the ball again - and what is even more amazing is what happens if the opposite team breaks early from the scrum in defence (this is of course when scrums return). Not only is it a full penalty rather than a differential one, which I agree with, but the team can elect to have another scrum. They can turn down a penalty for another scrum!

If the defending team breaks early from the scrum a second time, the referee will send the offending player to the sin bin. So we now have a situation in the game where a team can elect to try to get an opponent sin-binned, rather than play the game, once they have been awarded a penalty!

How can that be in the spirit of a sport? What market research was conducted to tell us this is a good idea?

None of us really know until we see this season's new rule changes whether they will achieve their desired objectives - or simply confuse and over-complicate things. I must trust that the RFL/Super League and the laws committee have undertaken appropriately robust research, and are confident that these six rule changes will deliver. I am looking forward to seeing if this all works out, and I genuinely hope it does.

My initial impression is that some of the changes seem contradictory. The sport has brought in "lateral positions" for the restart at a scrum, where a team can choose whether to have their scrum 10m/20m in from touch, or in the centre of the pitch.

This is designed to help provide a greater attacking situation from scrums. However, at the same time we bring in another rule which means that we have no scrum when the ball goes over the touchline. The game restarts with a play-the-ball when the ball crosses the touchline.

So we introduce change to encourage attacking play from a scrum, and then reduce the number of scrums that we have in a match. Who decided that we had too many scrums? We give a team an extra five or 10 seconds to decide where they want a restart, and then claim we're trying to speed up the game. Does that make sense?

What we need to do is simplify the game, not speed it up. I saw one of the most experienced referees in this country not know where exactly to restart play in one of the matches in round one. He thought the play-the-ball would be 20m in from the touchline - when in fact it should have been 10m - and fortunately was helped out by either a vigilant touch judge, or the video referee.

And I listened to another referee - who has covered games in the top division for the last decade - spend the entirety of his warm-up testing himself and his touch judges, to see if they could recall the fine detail of the rules in restart situations.

If two referees with that much experience are struggling to cope, what chance do part-time or volunteer officials have in the lower leagues, community, or junior games?

Confusion

A few weeks ago, I took part as an observer when the St Helens & Wigan Referees' Society held an online recruitment course for new match officials.

In addition to people from all over this country, there were men and women from Austria, Spain, Poland and Albania who were all keen to learn the rules and become a referee. They were doing this because they love the game and want to be able to referee a match in their home country.


One lady in Tirana was particularly impressive and had spent many hours reading as much as she could about the rules of rugby league. She asked some great questions, like why do the rules say that you must play the ball with the foot - but when she watches the matches on TV, this is not penalised?

She could not find where it was written that a player must have "balance and control" when playing the ball but has heard this said when she sees recent penalties. She was a very intelligent person - and yet could not work out why we use some rules and ignore others.

The first thing that she teaches all of her young players is that they must play the ball with their foot. It was confusing to her why we bring in new rules and choose to ignore some existing ones.

She made the very interesting observation that she thinks it would be simpler if the game just had six tackles every set. In her opinion, it would be quicker for her to explain the rules to her friends who just want to referee a match - rather than saying that sometimes there are seven. She suggested to me that you could simply have a tap on the 30m line to keep it simple.

This made me wonder how many votes the community or junior game gets on the laws committee?

In the long term, we need to make the game more enjoyable to play at all levels. Not just in Super League - but in the women's, community, junior and schools games.

I'd love to know - and maybe you can share your comments on our @SkySportsRL Twitter page - just what you, the fans and players out there watching make of this season's tinkering to the Greatest Game.

https://www.skysports.com/rugby-league/ ... ng-weekend
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.

josie andrews
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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by josie andrews » Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:54 am

I agree with him. I can’t keep up with these rule changes every season, sometimes during a season!

Cannot get my head around the ball steal rule at all now 🤔

Just wish they would stop following the NRL too! 🤨
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.

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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by Firestarter » Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:57 am

I agree josie..... i was the same on friday..... the game does not need speeding up anymore
IF YOU STRIKE ME DOWN I WILL BECOME MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE

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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by josie andrews » Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:00 am

Brian Carney says NRL and rugby league rule tinkerings could damage the sport

The 2021 NRL season kicks off on Thursday, with a list of eight new rules or rule alterations to be enforced, as confirmed last Wednesday. Sky Sports Rugby League's Brian Carney explains why he thinks more rule tinkering is damaging and doing more harm to the sport than good

Sky Sports Rugby League's Brian Carney has labelled the NRL and rugby league's rule tinkering a "nonsense", saying it could harm the sport on a global stage.

Last Wednesday the NRL released a statement confirming a host of new rules and rule alterations (eight in total) for the 2021 campaign, including two points for a drop goal instead of one, handovers for incorrect plays of the ball with the foot, captains challenges and more.

NRL head of football elite competitions Graham Annesley outlined his vision for how the new rules will make the competition "faster, more free-flowing and unpredictable in 2021".

Annesley said the rule changes have been "about minimising stoppages, increasing the amount of time the ball is in play, increasing the fatigue factor, trying to open up some spaces on the field and making the game more exciting and entertaining to watch".

For Carney, such changes are unnecessary and add more complications to an already complex sport for the casual fan to attempt to enjoy and understand.

“ Normal people say: 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', rugby league administrators seem to think: 'If it ain't broke yet, we haven't made it complicated enough!'" Carney said.

“ I'm not - by default - opposed to change, I understand the need for change, but we have a chronic addiction to change in the game, and it drives me crazy!

"The game is becoming more and more convoluted and more complex.

"As a thought experiment, hypothetically, if you got the most perfect creation you could and put it in a room, and filled it full of human beings and asked them what's wrong with that perfect creation they'll find fault with it and change it, and it'll become unrecognisable shortly, and that seems to be what we're doing with the game."

Another point of annoyance for Carney in addition to some of the rules themselves, is that with these rule changes there is scope for them to be reversed throughout the season.

"This year they've made some rule changes in the NRL, and given themselves the option to reverse those rules during the season - that's too much tinkering!" he added.

“ Another rule is two points for a drop goal, when have we ever needed that?

"An attempt to play the ball with your foot will now result in a handover - what's an attempt to play the ball? Are we really thinking that the phenomenal athletes that we'll see in the NRL cannot put their foot on the ball?

"Here's a suggestion for you then - and for all those decision-makers in the NRL (and those in Super League that seem to follow them like sheep at times) if you want LESS input from the referee, and you want MORE open rugby league and more tries, just get the players to attempt to not pass the ball forward, that's all they have to do.

"The referee won't blow his whistle for a forward pass, and we should (by definition) have more tries, but it's a nonsense isn't it?

“ Either get the rule out of the rule book, or enforce the rule as it is in the rule book, but this constant tinkering is leading them down blind alleyways where they suddenly have to find reverse - I'm reminded of that Austin Powers movie when he gets stuck between the two walls of a narrow corridor - that seems to be the way we are.

"It's becoming harder and harder to explain the rules of this game we love."

https://www.skysports.com/rugby-league/ ... -the-sport
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.

josie andrews
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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by josie andrews » Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:04 am

It’s just becoming far too complicated! I’m getting to the stage where all I know about the game now is scoring a try, kicking, or missing, the conversion & drop goals!

Another rule is two points for a drop goal, when have we ever needed that?

Why?

"An attempt to play the ball with your foot will now result in a handover - what's an attempt to play the ball? Are we really thinking that the phenomenal athletes that we'll see in the NRL cannot put their foot on the ball?

Playing the ball with your foot was, as far as I’m concerned, was always a main rule!!
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage.

Levrier
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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by Levrier » Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:55 am

I know that laws change but two things about the way that we do it in Rugby League really annoy me. Changing the law/rule part way through a season and failing to implement the same way both make us look idiotic. At least one game last year turned on the interpretation of what a correct play the ball is despite that standard not being applied at any other time during the same game.

pearsy
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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by pearsy » Tue Mar 30, 2021 10:26 am

Getting as hard as Union to fathom out

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Mike
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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by Mike » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:43 pm

I hate the annual rule or emphasis changes that result in the first two round of SL being dominated by penalties to the point where it seems like they'll have to be abandoned, followed by a reversal to something more sensible. They've let us down this year though, the refs don't seem to be ruining the game.

I think we change things too much both in terms of rules and competition structure, always looking for quick fixes to problems that need long term investment.

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Re: Phil Clarke questions the constant rule changes in rugby league after Super League's opening weekend

Post by moto748 » Sat Apr 03, 2021 3:06 am

I just wish everyone played to the same rules. But I do think the Captain's Challenge is a great idea. Requires every game to be fully televised, of course.

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