The ARLC has approved a number of changes for the 2020 NRL season while recommending a general play challenge and a reduction in the time trainers spend on the field.
Two tactical changes have been made with a 20/40 rule introduced, while teams will also be given an option to select the lateral scrum position either 10 or 20 metres from touch or in line with the black dot on the cross bar.
Rules around tackling players in midair have also been strengthened while the outdated mutual infringement law has been updated to replay the previous play-the-ball, scrapping a scrum for the attacking team.
The archaic law was brought into the spotlight during the 2019 NRL grand final, where Canberra’s Sia Soliola charged down a ball but it hit a trainer and the Sydney Roosters were given a scrum feed, changing momentum.
Under the new rule, referees will replay the previous play-the-ball instead of resetting with a scrum in favour of the attacking team.
Rules around tackling in midair have also been clarified in favour of player safety, banning it completely. Players can’t be tackled while in the air – a defender will need to wait until the player reaches the ground.
However, there is still room for contesting the ball, which could complicate the decision for referees.
The 20/40 rule was trialled in Queensland Cup in 2019 but used successfully just once.
The potential advantage is teams have to defend the play and could drop wingers back out of the defensive line, while adding another attacking option for teams looking to get out of their own end.
Predictability in scrums has also been targeted with teams able to nominate the lateral position of the scrum within about five seconds before a default scrum is set 20 metres from touch.
The idea is to add a tactical element to what is usually a predictable outcome.
The ARLC also endorsed a ‘challenge’ system for teams where they will be given one opportunity to challenge an on-field decision, which will be retained if they are correct.
It could not apply to forward passes.
The NRL will work through the operational details on how the challenge would be applied and a report will be put to the commission in February to introduce the rule in 2020.
Additionally, restrictions on trainers will be introduced to spend less time on the field. Limitations will be finalised at the next meeting.
Second-tier competitions will also trial packing six players into a scrum when only 12 players are on the field instead of five.