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The fans want more footy: Rugby league needs an advantage rule

Luke MacDonald Roar Rookie

By Luke MacDonald, Luke MacDonald is a Roar Rookie New author!


40 Have your say

    I support the rule crackdown from the NRL. Let’s be honest: if they stop now, they will just look weak. It’s short-term pain for what will be long-term gain, but only if they stick at it.

    The penny has dropped for some teams already, but we are still getting match-ups of teams that haven’t yet got the memo – North Queensland vs Gold Coast, for example (penalty count from match?).

    Two teams void of confidence combined with discipline issues had the viewing community screaming in disgust because of the endless stoppages. It got me thinking: Does it have to be like this?

    Other sports, even other rugby league competitions, have found a way to play advantage without a stoppage. Why can’t the NRL?

    Union doesn’t do many things better than league, but the advantage rule is one of those unicorns. When there is a penalty infringement the referee simply indicates such to the players verbally and with a straight arm. The team in possession can then continue with advantage until the referee deems the advantage over.

    AFL is clearly very different in structure to our sport, but they too have found a way to have continuous flow in their game. An AFL umpire blows the whistle and begins the arm movements to indicate the infringement. If the team receiving the free kick has the ball, they can take the advantage by simply playing on with any football movement they wish.

    Matt Cecchin

    (Mark Evans/Getty Images)

    One interesting point to note is that AFL players tend to instinctively know who infringed when the whistle blows and will often run into position before the umpire can even make the call.

    The case study closest to home, however, is the UK Super League. Their process is very simple: if there is an infringement, the tackle count can be restarted with an arm movement and verbally by the referees.

    This is the basis for what the NRL should look to implement. If combined with some of the better aspects of advantage rules mentioned above and there’s a framework for both punishing the infringing side, advantaging the attacking side will allow play to continue.

    Here’s a theoretical example of how I’d see it working.

    The Wests Tigers are 30 metres out from their own line on the first tackle. They are down 20-24 in the 2018 grand final against a tiring Warriors side.

    There’s a break; its James Tedesco! Wait, wait. Sorry! The Roosters were knocked out in Week 1 of the finals. It’s Corey Thompson. He’s through and over halfway.

    Now the 40. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck comes flying across in cover and takes him down 25 metres out from the line.

    Thompson gets to his feet and plays the ball. Ken Maumalo has managed to get to marker and, seeing that his defensive line is shot, jumps out early and makes the tackle on Luke Brooks.

    Let’s pause.

    This is where we need to change it up a little. Traditionally the whistle blows, the game stops and the attacking team misses a chance to take advantage of what they have rightfully gained: a field position victory combined with a broken, tired defensive line.

    What if play continues at this point with the referee making the standard straight arm penalty signal but no whistle to indicate an infringement with advantage? Benji Marshall gets to dummy-half and now has an option he can pick the ball up and take a zero tackle fresh set of seven without giving the defence a chance to reset and take some rest.

    If he wants to kick for touch or take a shot at goal, he can simply leave the ball on the ground and indicate to the referee he would like to do so with potentially a signal back.

    Like in the AFL example above, the players instinctively know when an infringement occurs. You see it all the time in NRL – a player gets out of dummy-half and suspects the marker isn’t square, and he and all his teammates look at the referee with outstretched arms, yelling, “Not square!”.

    Marshall will know Brooks got Maumalo. He’ll have it confirmed by the referee and then he, the player, not the referee, decides what’s best for his team with the grand final on the line.

    We all want to see more footy and have fewer stoppages. Why don’t we give our referees the tools and the players the power to do that?

    By the way, Benji picked it up, threw a 30-metre quad cut out and hit Malakai Watene-Zelezniak on the chest, who scored out wide. Esan Marsters then hit the upright and in from the touchline.

    Absolute scenes.

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    The Crowd Says (40)

    • April 25th 2018 @ 5:00am
      81paling said | April 25th 2018 @ 5:00am | ! Report

      Luke you say “I support the rule crackdown from the NRL. Let’s be honest: if they stop now, they will just look weak. It’s short-term pain for what will be long-term gain, but only if they stick at it”.
      The thing is that you can’t contradict yourself by saying enforce the rules strictly then allow them to be bent in certain circumstances to an advantage but, ensure that advantage is strictly enforced to be objective even though by definition it’s going to be subjective.

      • Columnist

        April 25th 2018 @ 7:25am
        Tim Gore said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        Luke is saying that all the penalties should be awarded but advsntage used where practical to keep the game flowing. He isn’t contradicting himself.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 25th 2018 @ 7:29am
        Luke MacDonald said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

        I don’t see it as a contradiction, I’m agreeing with what they have done, the penalties should stay, but we can do it in a way where they are less whistles, stoppages and more footy. Does that make sense?

      • Roar Guru

        April 28th 2018 @ 12:33pm
        Rellum said | April 28th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        Offside penalties should have a quick tap option at least no matter what state the defenders line is in.

    • April 25th 2018 @ 7:10am
      Forty Twenty said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      I agree with the article. Tom Turbo could pick up a grubber in his in goal area in the 2018 GF and run 90 metres and get tackled out wide and fouled by Kenny Edwards with 4 tackles left and the defence in disarray. Behind by 1 point with 30 seconds left you would deserve the chance to go for a try without a delay to win the game or if that fails take a difficult shot at goal.

      It seems to be now that they might play advantage but if Kenny Edwards goes over the top we hear that the ref had no option other than to award a penalty. Play on I say.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 25th 2018 @ 7:31am
        Luke MacDonald said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

        Yeah this is a great example, at the moment the defending team can soak up more clock and get a rest, not cool. Less whistles through advantage will decrease the professional penalties too in my opinion because they know the tackle count just gets restarted.

    • April 25th 2018 @ 7:32am
      Paul said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      The concept is excellent and would kill those sides like the Storm, who last year gave away huge numbers of penalties within 10 yards of their line, knowing it would take the attacking side at least 30 seconds to get set for the next set of tackles.

      As an aside, I reckon another way to get more footy played is the reduce the time taken for a goal line drop out to no more than 20 seconds. The break in play is not meant to be a breather for the defensive team, but that’s what it’s become.

      By the way, glad to see the Tigers win another flag with Benji involved!

      • Roar Rookie

        April 25th 2018 @ 7:50am
        Luke MacDonald said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more. Then of course dont get me started on scrums. Those are small blocks of time that might accrue to 5 mins total and need to be looked at also.

        My article looks not only at the time wasted but the flow and incessant sound the of the whistle blowing. It’s really not needed.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 25th 2018 @ 8:08am
        Luke MacDonald said | April 25th 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        Also, up the Tigs!

      • April 25th 2018 @ 8:15am
        Lovey said | April 25th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        But in those professional fouls the attacking side has no advantage to take.

        • Roar Rookie

          April 25th 2018 @ 8:46am
          Luke MacDonald said | April 25th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Fatigue factor/ ability to reset your defensive line should not be underestimated. Players much prefer to defend with the men inside and out that they train/ play with every day.

          Also, captains like Smith wouldnt get time to buy their teams breathers. Wouldnt have issue of “can’t take a quick tap” the set just rolls on.

      • April 25th 2018 @ 9:05am
        CTSTORM said | April 25th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        You rcon that will kill the Storm? keep dreaming mate

    • April 25th 2018 @ 7:59am
      Mike from Tari said | April 25th 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      AFL comparison is a bit different as the majority of players are in front of the free kick.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 25th 2018 @ 8:01am
        Luke MacDonald said | April 25th 2018 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        What do you mean? As in there are players already ahead of the ball?

    • April 25th 2018 @ 8:25am
      Big Daddy said | April 25th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Maybe they could implement the 50 metre rule as they do in AFL if someone infringes the quick tap instead of Sin bin.

    • Roar Rookie

      April 25th 2018 @ 9:06am
      McTavish said | April 25th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      If Tommy had already run 90 metres the coach would have apoplexy if the penalty conversion wasn’t taken!

      • April 25th 2018 @ 10:42pm
        Forty Twenty said | April 25th 2018 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

        The point is if you play advantage then you get the chance to score a highly probable try and if that fails you get a difficult shot to win the game. Kenny Edwards is rewarded by stopping a try and forcing his opponents to take a difficult penalty shot. 50 % chance of being kicked at best , even Thurston missed.