Matty Johns smacks down Cameron Smith claim in huge call on much-maligned NRL rule

The former NRL players have disagreed amid calls to scrap the set restart rule.

Matty Johns has fired back at critics who want the NRL to clarify or scrap the six-again rule, saying the game has never been better because of it. The rule has been at the centre of controversy this week, with a number of NRL identities saying there's too much grey area and not enough clarity around why teams are being pinged and giving away set restarts.

The NRL brought in the six-again rule to speed up the game, allowing referees to award a set restart rather than a penalty in certain situations. It has resulted in a faster, more free-flowing game with fewer stoppages and ball out of play.

Matty Johns and Cameron Smith.
Matty Johns has shot down critics like Cameron Smith who want the six-again rule scrapped. Image: Getty

But because they happen so quickly and the game continues straight away, fans are often left with little clarity about why the referee has called a six-again. Queensland were burned by multiple set restarts in the opening 10 minutes of State of Origin 2 last week, which saw NSW get on a massive early roll and score six first-half tries.

Former Maroons captain Smith added his voice to the frustration this week and said the NRL needs to do something. “I don’t particularly like them if I’m being honest,” Smith said about set restarts on SEN Radio. “Set restarts are all up to the interpretation of the referees.

Referee Ashley Klein in State of Origin 2.
Ashley Klein pinged the Maroons for a number of set restarts in the early stages of State of Origin 2. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“The consecutive set restarts that referee Ashley Klein gave in State of Origin 2, if they didn’t have a direct defensive impact in that moment (on Queensland) then they will impact down the track. Queensland were forced to make an interchange because of the sheer amount of work they were made to do.

“They had 15 consecutive tackles on their own try line and no one knows (what the penalty is for) so there’s no accountability for the referee. You can’t tell me that in Game 2 where there’s a ruck infringement or slow play the ball ruled by the ref in the first 15 minutes that there’s something similar that they let go after 60 minutes. It’s so crucial with the timings of when the refs give the set restart.

“We need to scrap them because then there’s an emphasis placed on refs giving a whistle on things that are blatant penalties. That way, everyone knows what is going on.”

But speaking on Thursday night, Johns said the game would be way worse off if there were a plethora of penalties in every match. Johns also pointed out that Smith is one of the reasons for the set restart being brought into the game, because he was always slowing down matches to speak to the referee after a penalty was blown.

“All this talk at the moment, it’s doing my head in, and coaches included, about scrapping the six-again rule,” he said on the 'Late Show with Matty Johns'. “In my opinion the game has never been better and a major contributor has been the six-again rule.

Cronulla Sharks players in action against the Bulldogs.
The Cronulla Sharks were hit with a number of six-agains in the final minutes of their loss to the Bulldogs. Image: Getty/Channel 9

“There’s coaches out there saying scrap it, there’s too many six-agains. Well, you know what? Get your side onside, get their arms out of the ruck ... because I tell you what if you get rid of the six-again rule the way teams are defending in the ruck, you’ll have 30 penalties again.

"Cam Smith came out and said ‘I think they should get rid of it’. Well part of the reason they did it was because of Cam - remember they’d get a penalty and Cameron would walk up and have a smoke and have a little discussion. Just keep the game moving!”.


Ricky Stuart and Craig Fitzgibbon both questioned the officiating after their team's losses last weekend. And Yahoo Sport Australia writer Adam Lucius reported this week that teams will demand the NRL move to clarify or completely abolish the rule at the end of the season.