NRL announces rule tweaks for 2023 sesaon

Referees will show more lenience to players grounding the ball for a try and clubs will still be able to challenge the referee's final whistle as part of tweaks to the NRL's rules ahead of the new season.

The NRL announced the amendments on Thursday morning, with all aimed at keeping the game flowing.

"While relatively minor, these changes will improve three elements of the game - player safety, the game presentation for fans and off-side compliance," NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.

"We undertook a thorough review of the 2022 season, including consultation with the NRL clubs, the RLPA and other stakeholders.

"The overriding feedback was the current interpretations are creating a faster and more free-flowing game, but there was a need to address some minor issues which have emerged."

In the most significant change, tries will now be awarded if the ball rotates from the hand to the wrist or forearm provided there is no separation between the ball and the player.

Under previous rules, such a movement was deemed a loss of control and would not have resulted in a try.

The NRL has also clarified that a captain's challenge is able to be mounted whenever the referee blows their whistle to stop play, such as at fulltime or halftime, rather than only when there is a structured restart.

The clarification comes after North Queensland controversially challenged the referee's final whistle when they were down by one point in the final minute against Wests Tigers in round 19.

The challenge allowed the bunker to find a penalty in back-play that gave the Cowboys a chance to kick for goal and win the game.

Such challenges will continue to be permitted but forward passes, discretionary penalties including offside in the 10 metres and ruck infringements relating to play-the-ball speed are still unable to be challenged.

If a defensive player is called offside at a scrum, the attacking team will now have the option to take a penalty or repack the scrum. The NRL is hoping this will discourage defensive players from illegally disrupting an attacking team's set plays.

As part of the change to this rule, an attacking team that deliberately holds the ball in the scrum to catch the opposition offside will also be penalised.

Teams will now be able to activate their 18th man concussion substitute if two of their players have failed a head injury assessment, rather than three as has been the case since the rule was introduced in the 2021 season.

The bunker will only intervene in acts of foul play that are reportable, while the referee will be able to penalise multiple 10-metre breaches without enacting the sin bin, as has usually been the case after repeated six-again calls.

Finally, the referee will now only call "held" or "release" rather than both terms to indicate a tackle has been completed.