The NRL have revealed several rule changes for the 2021 season, including the introduction of two-point drop-goals.
The changes have been made by the Australian Rugby League Commission, which included current NRL players Damien Cook and Luke Keary, and coaches Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart, with the intention of making the game faster, more free-flowing, entertaining and unpredictable for fans.
The new drop-goal ruling is the most radical change and will see the team rewarded with two points instead of one if they kick one from over 40m out.
A number of rules which were introduced ahead of the restart after the Covid-19 lockdown have also been adopted permanently, including the ‘six again’ and the use of just one on-field match official.
NRL rule changes for the 2021 season:
Two points for drop-goal outside 40m line – Brought in to encourage more unstructured play and increase the chances of a result changing in the final moments of a game.
Six again for 10 metre infringements – To reduce stoppages in the game, 10 metre infringement penalties will be replaced with a “Six Again” ruling. Referees maintain the ability to blow a penalty and sin bin a player if a side has made repeated 10m infringements or in the case of professional fouls.
Scrums – To increase the integrity of scrums, the referee will call “BREAK” when they are satisfied the ball is out of a scrum. Players will not be permitted to break from a scrum until the referee makes the call. Where players break before the call, the referee will award a full penalty. The team receiving the penalty will also have the option of re-packing the scrum.
Play-the-ball restart after ball or player finds touch – When the ball is kicked or carried into touch play will resume with a play the ball rather than a scrum.
Handover for incorrect play-the-ball – A handover will be ordered where players do not make a genuine attempt to play the ball with their foot.
Captain’s challenge – In cases where a Captain’s Challenge review is inconclusive, the on-field decision will stand but the team will retain their challenge.
Bunker reviews – Where the on-field referee believes a try is scored the referee will award a try and the bunker will review the decision in the background. A conversion attempt will not be permitted until the bunker is satisfied a try has been scored.
Trainers – In 2021, where a trainer asks a match official to stop the game for an injury, the injured player must be either interchanged or taken off the field for a period of two minutes of elapsed game time before he is permitted to resume his place on the field.
On the rule changes, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said: “These innovations will lead to less stoppages, more unpredictability and increased excitement for our fans.
“The message from the fans and our broadcasters has been clear; the game became too predictable and the balance between attack and defence had gone too far in favour of defence.
“Our changes last year were successful in addressing some of those challenges and the changes announced today will take the element of unpredictability and entertainment a step further.”
“Providing the opportunity for a two-point play will give teams incentive to make attacking plays to get into field goal range at the end of a half. It will also ensure teams who are down by one or two points in the dying moments of a match have a better opportunity to win a game or go to golden point.”