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All Stars to trial captain’s challenge

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20th February, 2020
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The proposed captain’s challenge will face its first test ahead of the 2020 NRL season with the new rule to be trialled in the All Stars match this weekend.

On Thursday, the NRL released guidelines around the new rule, which needs the final tick of approval from the Australian Rugby League Commission before it is implemented for Round 1.

Each team will be given one unsuccessful challenge against a referee’s decision but there is no cap on the number of successful challenges per game.

Players will have ten seconds to decide to challenge a call unless play starts sooner.

They only appeal decisions that require a structured restart like a penalty, handover, scrum, 20-metre restart or line drop out.

For penalties, the captain can challenge decisions around stealing the ball, mid-air contact, foul play, obstruction and kick-chase offside.

They cannot challenge discretionary penalties such as ruck and marker infringements or ten-metre offside penalties.

Only the captain can challenge a decision, and should he be off the field, a nominated player in his place.

The proposal comes after a fan survey conducted over the off-season raised the issue of refereeing blunders and their impact on the game.

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The captain’s challenge was then proposed by the ARLC in a meeting in December as a rule change for the upcoming season, giving the NRL three months to formulate guidelines around it.

Changes to the NRL laws often cause ripple effects throughout a game, and trialling the captain’s challenge will be an important part of ironing out any kinks before it is introduced in the season proper.

“This is an innovation which puts the fans first,” said NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley.

“At the end of last season we conducted a fan survey, more than 20,000 fans responded, and the biggest issue they raised was the impact of an incorrect call on the game.

“The challenge system addresses those concerns and takes some pressure off our referees.

“It also adds an additional element of excitement and tactics to our games. If a team gets a challenge wrong they will have no more challenges so it will need to be used strategically.”

The captain’s challenge will also be trialled in the Charity Shield in Mudgee next weekend before going to the ARLC for approval.

It has previously been tested in the under-20s system, and during one non-finals bearing NRL game between St George Illawarra and Newcastle back in 2016, where it was not used by either side.

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