The Roar
The Roar


NRL's kick-blocker crackdown changes the game - but the question is do we want that?

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
28th March, 2024

The NRL’s crack-down on kick blockers is a clear attempt to address the cynical practise of attacking teams using forwards as obstacles to make life difficult for those attempting charge-downs and life a little easier for the kicker.

Many a subtle shoulder has been dropped over the years, by loitering big men creating nothing other than a zig zag pathway available to defensive players looking to pressurise the kick.

Being able to have the kicker on the front foot and launching the ball as close to the advantage line as possible is the obvious goal and attacking teams have managed the charade well over recent seasons.

The coaches never let us down when it comes to looking at the rules of the game in a malleable way and managing them to advantage.

The blocking of defenders was never more obvious than when the teams were level and a field goal required at the death or during golden point extra-time.

At times, the obstruction were so blatant they became laughable; almost as funny as how far off-side defenders were after having jumped off the line in an effort to charge down the kick.

No doubt there were issues in the area of kicking and the strategies being used to ensure the most effective kick possible was executed.


Yet the NRL’s crackdown will have enormous knock-on effects on the way the game looks to fans and could in fact take away many of the things they enjoy in the contest.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15:Nathan Cleary of the Panthers kicks the winning field goal in golden point during the round seven NRL match between Newcastle Knights and Penrith Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium on April 15, 2023 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Exponents of the field goal such as Nathan Cleary deserve protection, but not from illegal blockers. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

As is the case with most things in life, crackdowns can sometimes be knee-jerk and a little short sided in their implementation.

In rugby league, the coaches are in the lab constructing an alternative plan within hours and already, Penrith seems to have concocted a method by which they hope to combat the clearing up of the ruck area during the process of kicking in general play.

Lat weekend, hooker Mitch Kenny was rather obviously moving intentionally towards the kicker after passing to him from dummy-half. As he followed his own pass, there were a handful of occasions where his presence became noticeable to the defenders attempting to pressure the kick.

It was a clear attempt to slow the defender down by a step or two and allow the kicker an extra quarter or half second to execute.

'They'll all be doing it!' Have Penrith already found a loophole for NRL's kick-blocker clampdown?

‘They’ll all be doing it!’ Have Penrith already found a loophole for NRL’s kick-blocker clampdown?


It seems within a month, the clamp-down has brought its first knock-on effect and there will be plenty more to come. Without the illegal protection offered by blockers, the quality of the kicks executed will potentially lessen.

Brilliant exponents of the game by foot from the past such as Ricky Stuart, Andrew Johns, Darren Locker, Johnathan Thurston and modern day halves such as Cleary and Shaun Johnson, help clear teams from trouble, turn defence into attack and use the conditions to advantage where possible.

Whilst few of us are turning up to watch matches each week for the kicking, its role is historical, important and part of the fabric of the game. Having a six tackle limit per set makes it so and also a process that needs to have integrity, justice and clarity for both those playing and watching.

Less effective kicks will potentially increase opportunities for the back three to expose a weaker chase and advance the ball even greater metres on kick return.

Seeing skilled ball returners like Dylan Edwards and Reece Walsh is a joy, yet with teams already able to roll down the field comfortably on many occasions, traversing 80 metres-plus per set, could well become automatic off average kicks.

Reece Walsh is one of the most exciting kick returners in the NRL. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The days of an effective kick, a good chase and defensive pressure to maintain field position could be numbered, especially if teams are well organised in pressuring kicks in numbers.


Less successful 40-20 attempts seems almost certain with the new crackdown, field-goals could well become far more challenging during the frantic scenes as the clock runs and the desperation increases, and the notion of a two-point field goal might need to be shelved totally, with teams alert to it and able to advance towards the kicker without impediment.

The coaches are, like Cleary, on the case and the game is set to morph into something slightly different off the back of the crack-down on the lurking kick-blockers looking to get a head start on the chase down-field.

With change a coming, the big question is whether it is something the game wants or needs. Either way, quality kicking might be set to become more important than ever in 2024.