'Absolutely horrendous': Controversial new rule divides NRL fans

The contentious ‘captain’s challenge’ has been signed off on for the 2020 NRL season but rugby league fans aren’t universally sold on the new initiative.

The ARLC has approved 'captain's challenge' for the upcoming season, insisting the rule tweak will add "excitement, unpredictability and tactics" to the game.

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The new rule means NRL captains on the field will now be able to challenge a referee's decisions in a set of situations using the game's existing video referee system.

With less than a fortnight to go until the season starts, only South Sydney and St-George Illawarra have had the advantage of using the system - in the Charity Shield - while it was also tested in the NRL All Stars match last month.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said teams would be briefed this week but expects there to be "plenty of debate" around the code's latest rule tweak.

The new initiative was approved after being successfully used in the 2020 Charity Shield. Pic: Getty

"We have moved pretty quickly since Christmas and there is very much an innovation agenda from the Commission to make sure we try new things," he said.

The main concern with the introduction of captain's challenge is adding extra stoppages to matches, which slows the game down and can frustrate fans.

Each team will get one unsuccessful challenge per game, and will have 10 seconds to alert the referee that they wish to contest a decision.

The only decisions that can be challenged are those involving a structured restart of play, such as a penalty or scrum.

The opportunity to contest a call is over once play resumes.

"We have done it very specifically so you can only use it when there is a stoppage in play," Greenberg said when asked about the prospect of teams using the initiative strategically.

"If there is a decision that is wrong on the field and we want to correct it through technology then we will do it, but we want to make sure we don't lose the continuity of the game, which is why you only get one (unsuccessful challenge).

Captain's challenge will give teams a chance to overturn an incorrect refereeing decision. Pic: Getty

"You get it wrong and you lose it."

Part of fans' criticism about the new rule tweak is the fact it wouldn't eliminate such controversies as the 'six again' debacle that left the Canberra Raiders fuming in the 2019 grand final - due to the fact that didn’t fit into a "structured restart of play”.

While other supporters argue the ‘captain’s challenge’ introduces an exciting new avenue for teams to appeal seemingly shocking calls, others argue it will simply slow the game down even more.

The system was first proposed by the ARLC in December after results of a fan survey indicated one of the biggest problems in the game is incorrect refereeing decisions.

"This is an exciting innovation for our game," Greenberg said.

"It will add an additional layer of excitement, unpredictability and tactics to matches. Most importantly, though, it provides an opportunity for a wrong decision to be overturned."

NRL taking coronavirus precautions

Greenberg says his organisation is making plans for possible disruption to the 2020 season by the coronavirus outbreak.

While Australian sports are yet to be impacted by the virus, several international and domestic competitions across the world have had to postpone or hold fixtures in empty stadiums due to the outbreak.

Asian and European football competitions have been affected along with Europe's Six Nations rugby tournament while the first round of the Moto GP championship in Qatar was cancelled over the weekend due to the virus.

With the outbreak showing no signs of abating, the NRL CEO said his organisation was monitoring the situation closely.

"We have a small working group at the NRL, led primarily by our chief medical officer, who is in contact with the Federal Government and the Australian Institute of Sport," Greenberg said.

"We are watching all those trends and if things change, we will deal with it."

What impact the virus could have on Australian domestic sports remains unclear and Greenberg wouldn't speculate on whether matches would have to be postponed or played in empty stadiums should the situation worsen.

"We will put plans in place and we are mindful of the problems that might exist," he said.

"People want to go to the worst case scenario and it is our job to make sure we are well planned.

"I hope we don't have to go anywhere near it."

With AAP