The NRL has announced it will only make one change for the 2024 season but it is one that could have ultimately changed the result of last year's grand final. In a bid to encourage teams to take more risks to regain possession and add some more unpredictability to the league, the NRL has moved to scrap penalties for illegal restarts ahead of the new season.
The change means teams will no longer cop a penalty when a kick restart fails to go 10 metres or goes out on the full. Instead, the receiving team will be given a play-the-ball 10 metres out from the try line and 10 metres in from touch.
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The change aims to encourage more teams to take short restarts, which comes after a significant increase in teams attempting shallow dropouts in recent seasons. However, the short restart has previously come with the high risk of effectively giving away two points by way of a penalty goal each time the dropout didn't work out. That proved crucial in last year's grand final with Brisbane giving away two points after a dropout went out on the full in the first half, with Penrith going on to win the game by just two points.
"While relatively minor, this change will add to the unpredictability of the game," head of football Graham Annesley said. "Teams will no longer risk conceding significant territory as well as a penalty for attempting to regain possession from restarts of play.
"We undertook a thorough review of the 2023 season, including consultation with the NRL clubs, the RLPA and other stakeholders. While there was a strong desire to keep changes to a minimum, this minor change will incentivise short kick-offs and drop-outs."
Corey Parker says the rule change will bring more excitement to the game
Corey Parker told Triple M Breakfast on Thursday that the rule change is a great move by the NRL as it will bring another level of excitement for spectators. "I like the rule, I think it’s great. They’re always looking at ways to innovate and make it a spectacle for the punters in the stands," Parker said.
"It’s a 50-50 chance of getting the ball back, ala what we saw in the grand final last year with the Broncos when Adam Reynolds kicked it out and it was a penalty in front. Now (with the rule change), you’ll see pretty much every team go for a short dropout, which is what we sort of started to see at different stages throughout the back end of last year, but you might even start to see it now with kick-offs. We’ve got some wonderful athletes, the likes of Xavier Coates for example that jump about eight feet in the air, I actually really like the rule it’s a great, innovative way to keep people watching the game."
NRL move slammed for taking away the risk-reward factor
The tweak is the only one made ahead of the 2024 season as the NRL continues a period of stabilisation of their rules following rapid change during the Covid era. But not everyone is happy with the latest decision by the NRL, with social media users pointing out that the new rule takes away the risk-reward factor and is a further step in killing the skill of the short kicking game.
Another season, another silly @NRL rule change that no one asked for. Why would you want to incentivise short kick offs, that are just scrappy. Previously it was risk vs reward, now there is no risk. https://t.co/pv7NoR0IUr
— Ben Howard (@BM_Howard) January 17, 2024
Stupid why change a rule that worked the risk vs reward made it interesting now it’s going to be a free for all !!
— Nick Edwads (@Nicholasroyce92) January 17, 2024
Is the short kicking game dead in the #NRL?
Kick the ball dead and you give away 7 tackles. Force a drop out and now opposition teams have a free shot at a short drop out.
I do not understand some of these rule changes. Any of them, really.
— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) January 17, 2024
Down by 2 with a minute on the clock and the other team has a line drop out. Drill it out on the full and waste 20 secs and with about 30-40 secs left for them to defend, so maybe 3 tackles. Before the rule change you could either take a tap or take the two. Seems a dumb change
— MJackson (@Leprechauns87) January 17, 2024
- with AAP
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