Defenders win out as restarts drop: Hasler

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Des Hasler claims the NRL has let defenders push offsides to the skinniest point they have in recent memory coming into the finals as set restarts hit an all-time low.

Hasler joined Wayne Bennett on Friday in pointing out that the NRL's interpretations had changed late in the season, with Bennett predicting officials will become even more lenient.

An average of just 6.8 set restarts have been called per game over the past four rounds, the lowest monthly rate since the rule was introduced last year.

The drop comes after restarts were at a high of 8.6 between rounds four and seven this year, and 9.3 shortly after the rule was introduced for ruck infringements only last year.

The change has done little to stop the avalanche of points with the average close to the season mark of 46 per game, however winning margins have reduced from 18 to 13 in that period.

Regardless, Hasler believes the NRL does need to be mindful of what impact it could have on the game's best attacking players against good defensive sides come finals.

"That's entirely their call (how it is officiated come finals), but I know it's something that (referees boss) Jared Maxwell and (head of football) Graham Annesley were looking at," the Manly coach said.

"I was talking to Jared Maxwell the other day, we're still getting a lot of blowouts but the 10 metres is probably the skinniest I've seen it for a long time.

"I know that the referees are aware of that.

"From when they first introduced the six-again rule I think the six-agains per game have dropped by a considerable margin, well over 50 per cent.

"It's an interesting one."

Hasler's comments come after Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis blasted the set restart rules this week, claiming the product of the game had dropped and teams would stop watching if blowouts continue.

Realistically Manly bank on an open game as much as any other team, with the likes of Tom Trbojevic at their best when the Sea Eagles are on the front foot.

Penrith and Melbourne are the other teams to have benefited most from the up-tempo style of play over the past two years.

Bennett meanwhile backed Hasler's claims, admitting he was unsurprised given he had long seen penalties drop at this point in the season.

"I would agree with that. Des' observations are 100 per cent right," Bennett said.

"Whether it's good or bad or indifferent, that's what it is right now and that's what's happening and I've got to assume when the finals come around it will be further down the track.

"Because they're all worried about giving away penalties and we're worried about those type of stats.

"I don't know how many final series I've watched but I'm telling you this is going to be different (to the regular season)."

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