The rule that would change the face of wet weather footy

Robert Burgin Columnist

By Robert Burgin, Robert Burgin is a Roar Expert

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31 Have your say

    While rugby league fans try to keep their heads above water in a weekend of wet weather footy, it’s time to proffer a long-contemplated idea.

    It’s a concept to make the game more attractive not only for those moments when the surface is slippery but also for those fixtures where for whatever reason
    everyone suddenly has a case of the dropsies.

    Here it is: attacking teams should not be able to regather their own knock-ons.

    I know it’s a left-field notion and would need some solid road-testing, but hear me out on the basis.

    This is something I first put to former Queensland rugby league coaching director Dennis Ward 15 years ago over a Monday morning cup of tea.

    We were talking about a range of junior and amateur games we’d watched the previous weekend – all games littered by a heap of dropped ball – and although some of those contests were hard to watch, others were genuinely entertaining.

    I proposed to the former Australian halfback that handling errors do not necessarily ruin a game, but it’s the flow of the game from that point onward that decides its entertainment value.

    If a scrum is packed or the attacking team kicks the spilt ball away or dives on it before slowly surrendering possession, sure it’s torturous to watch, especially if you get three or four sets in a row of the same.

    But take a sequence of handling errors in a game where the opposing team regathers and possession changes quickly and it makes for furiously fast action.

    You barely get a chance to bemoan the fact everyone has turned into a butterfingers, because you’re too busy watching the end-to-end movement.

    That was the case early in last night’s game at Suncorp Stadium before the Broncos ran away with it 36-0.

    For the first quarter of the game both teams were coughing up the ball regularly as they adjusted to the conditions, but most often the pill was bouncing into the arms of someone headed in the opposite direction at pace.

    It wasn’t classic footy, but it was dynamic, jolting and rapid – qualities rugby league is built upon.

    (Image: AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Rulemakers gave us the 10-metre onside rule, shot clocks, the option of a quick tap and the chance at a 40-20 because rugby league at its roots is about accelerating momentum, shifting momentum and encouraging impact.

    Allowing an attacking player to sullenly flop on a ball after they’ve dropped it is none of these things – it’s the sporting equivalent of throwing a damp rug over a fire.

    My basic proposal is that once an attacking player knocks the ball on, they must allow the opposing team to regather for a zero tackle. The teammates of the person who knocked the ball on would have to retreat behind said person to be onside.

    Of course there’d be moments in a game where a fullback spills a kick return and must regather to save a certain try, or a forward rucking the ball off his line commits a similar misdeed.

    Under my proposal it would be a penalty rather than a drawn-out transfer of possession via an uncontested scrum if they regathered, because we want as many moments as possible to be contested and force decisions.

    If a player knocks on in his red zone, he would have a split second to decide whether he backs his team to defend for six tackles or he regathers and gives up a penalty.

    Moments before halftime last night we saw one instance where this could have been applied: a Jordan Rankin knock-on and regather under the pressure of an encroaching kick-chase.

    Although the Broncos ended up scoring from the next set to keep the home fans happy, it was almost anti-climatic because of the halt in play to set a scrum and the structured play that ensued.

    If Rankin was forced to chance his arm and allow the Broncos to pick up the ball, we would have seen a try that was much more fluid, a desperate hold-out set in defence by the Tigers or a debate over the merits of a tactically-conceded penalty.

    Like everything, I’m sure there are ways this could be exploited or that there are technical aspects that would need resolving, but I’m keen to hear what others think of the scenario and any alternative ideas you have to keep the game moving quickly.

    Just don’t do what Dennis did all those years back when I first suggested it: give me a deep stare through your glasses and back away while dunking a scotch finger biscuit, leaving me wondering to this day whether it was the notion of a crazed man or if I’m onto something.

    Robert Burgin
    Robert Burgin

    Robert Burgin is a sports writer of 20 years with a particular appetite for Rugby League's exotic and bizarre tales. Find him on Twitter @RobBurginWriter.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • May 20th 2017 @ 7:16am
      Duncan Smith said | May 20th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      Not a bad idea.

    • May 20th 2017 @ 7:39am
      Mark said | May 20th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      A bit out there, but I would definitely be intrigued to see a game played with that rule interpretation.

    • Roar Guru

      May 20th 2017 @ 8:20am
      Rabbitz said | May 20th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      “I proposed to the former Australian halfback”

      What did he say? What did he say?

      Also I’d like to see that rule trialled. Even in the dry. It would promote a more continuous contest. I am sure it would change the way teams press an attack.

      • Columnist

        May 20th 2017 @ 8:31am
        Robert Burgin said | May 20th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        As mentioned at the end, Dennis never really gave me a firm idea. He was mulling it over in his head when he headed back to his office, unsure if I was bonkers or if it could work. Dennis loved offbeat ideas and always thought deeply about the game, so he was the kind of person you could raise these things with.

        Also, I did mean that the rule should be enforced in all weather types, but was simply suggesting it would improve wet weather games in particular.

        • May 20th 2017 @ 9:04am
          Mitcher said | May 20th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

          That’s a no ball. Flew waaay over the head.

        • Roar Guru

          May 20th 2017 @ 10:55am
          Rabbitz said | May 20th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          Ahhhh. I should have proofed my post and removed the ambiguity.

          ‘Even in the dry. It would promote a more continuous contest.’ should read ‘Even in the dry, it would promote a more continuous contest.’

          Those pesky commas can make a difference 🙂

    • May 20th 2017 @ 8:41am
      Jimmmy said | May 20th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Robert , I think you are missing one very important point. What is a knock on .? A Knock on occurs when the Ref rules the ball travelled forward out of a players hands. It is the REF who calls it. Now you want to change it so the player is the one who has to decide . A player drops the ball, sometimes he knows he knocked it on , sometimes he knows he knocks it back, sometimes he has no idea. Now you want him to make a decision and if the Ref thinks he is wrong it’s a penalty???
      The modern interpretation ( which I tend to agree with) seems to rule every dropped ball is primae facei a knock on but players often know that they dropped it back. Now they will be penalised for picking the ball up.!!
      Are you sure it was Monday morning coffee , not Friday arvo scotches??

      • May 20th 2017 @ 9:07am
        Albo said | May 20th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Spot on Jimmy ! Whilst Robert comes up with an idea to speed up play, this idea would more than likely raise more controversy via subjective refs rulings that already dog our game. Furthermore it would be the next step into eliminating scrums altogether changing the whole fabric of the game. How much faster do we need to make the game ?

        • May 20th 2017 @ 10:38am
          McNaulty said | May 20th 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

          The player usually knows if he has knocked on or not. It can just be reviewed by the video ref anyway. Its all just part of the decision the player makes as whether to regather it or not.

          • May 20th 2017 @ 11:14am
            Jara W said | May 20th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

            Ease up mate. They’re footballers. Think of Greg Eastwood, Josh McGuire, Paul Gallen.

            You’re gonna ask these blokes to weigh up the odds of the ref calling a knock on vs the probability of the opposition scoring a try? And in the spot?!?

            They’ll spontaneously combust!

      • Columnist

        May 21st 2017 @ 8:12am
        Robert Burgin said | May 21st 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        Haha definitely not scotches. But what you are saying is not to dissimilar to how offside from a kick or knock-on are adjudicated currently. The referee has final say, but usually a player has to decide and act first.

    • May 20th 2017 @ 9:18am
      AGO74 said | May 20th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      I like the idea in principle but jimmmy above points out a material issue.

      Another one I see is that sometimes the defending team would prefer a scrum – eg if a team has defended 2 or 3 sets on their line and opposition knocks on every player on the defending team would choose the 40 second scrum break to regathering breath as opposed to having to play straight on immediately.

    • May 20th 2017 @ 9:20am
      Neville Neville said | May 20th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      A spot fixers first play wet dream. kick off, knock on, penalty.

      • May 20th 2017 @ 9:55am
        kk said | May 20th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Do your mates call you ‘Come Again?’

        • Roar Guru

          May 20th 2017 @ 10:29am
          Jason Hosken said | May 20th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          Nope, mostly Nevlox, Nevo, Keeps or Labby.

        • May 20th 2017 @ 11:19am
          Neville Neville said | May 20th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          No Mates, I’m the original Neville no friends

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