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For our next trick ... NRL considers radical kicking rule which could be trialled in round 25

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26th August, 2021
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The NRL’s innovation committee is considering a rule change that would grant the opposition a seven-tackle set when a team kicks the ball out in open play.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the committee will convene early next week to discuss the impact of recent rule changes and consider further changes.

The Herald said the main agenda item will be whether all kicks in general play that find touch – except for the 40-20 and 20-40 – will result in a seven-tackle set to the opposition.

It reported the initiative could be tested as early as the round 25 clash between Canterbury and Wests Tigers.

Innovation committee chairman Wayne Pearce believes the tweak could result in more ball-in-play time by discouraging ‘touch-finder’ kicks.

“At the moment, when a ball gets kicked into touch, there’s a turnover and the team can have it in the middle of the field or wherever they want to have it,” Pearce told the Herald.

“My view is that there’s a difference between a player running into touch – whether it be trying to score a try or whatever – and a player deliberately kicking into touch to slow the play down.

“Sometimes players can’t help going into touch or the ball getting passed into touch, but if the ball is deliberately kicked into touch, then there should be some sort of disincentive.

“This is only my view – and I haven’t run it past the innovation committee yet – is that we would restart with a seven-tackle set.

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“That then becomes consistent if you kick the ball dead-in-goal. So rather than dead-in-goal, the whole perimeter of the field – if the ball gets kicked out of bounds – then there’s a seven-tackle restart. It disincentivises some of the teams from kicking into touch and trying to get a slow restart.”

The governing body has often used final round matches of no consequence to finals to test rule changes.

Last year referees were asked to adjudicate on tries without going to the bunker, giving the video reviewers until the conversion to overturn the decision. The trial was considered successful and was implemented this season.

The NRL have added several innovations, not all of them embraced by fans, in the past few seasons, reverting to one referee and introducing the six-again call for most infringements. Pearce said new changes would be minor.

“The main point is we made a lot of significant changes and we’re moving into a consolidation phase,” said Pearce.

“There is no doubt the game flows a lot better than it had when the wrestle was in, that’s for sure.

“I can’t see the sense in change for change’s sake. That’s why we might run with the one trial and see how that goes because the feedback has been pretty good over the changes we’ve brought in over the last couple of years.”

Pearce ruled out a change to the kick off after a try.

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“One of the things we don’t want to do is change the essence of what the game is about and that would significantly change the spirit of the game,” Pearce said.

“We’re conscious of the tradition and the history of the game. We don’t want to tamper with that.”

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