NRL eye tweak after 'downtown' blunder

·3-min read

NRL's head of football Graham Annesley has flagged a tweak to the 'downtown' rule to fix inconsistencies after admitting officials mistakenly awarded Brisbane a try on Saturday.

Kobe Hetherington scored in the sixth minute of a 35-22 win over Newcastle but on Monday, Annesley said he should have been denied as he was in front of the play-the-ball mark when the ball was kicked.

It comes two weeks after South Sydney were denied a try to Mark Nicholls against Penrith when the little-known rule was enacted, handing the Panthers a penalty.

At the time, the NRL was forced to defend officials for making the correct call - so infrequently the penalty is blown.

However, in the same round, replays from the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra game show players were in front of the play-the-ball mark on the first three sets of the game before making tackles.

Across the past three weeks Annesley has now defended officials for making the right call, and as of Monday, been forced to admit they missed one that cost the Knights.

He said the rule itself, among others, could be rewritten more simply at the end of the season.

"It would be a slight tweak, we don't want to change the rule altogether," he said.

"One of our objectives in relation to rule changes, if we are to have any, is we should be always looking to change rules that are difficult to pick up and make them simpler.

"I don't think it's confusing to officials, I think they know what they have to look for, but it's one of those ones that can be missed quite easily.

"They're always looking for it, and they do a pretty good job throughout the course of the season of picking them up.

"A lot the rules are like that. I don't think (the downtown rule is) a huge issue because we don't see it that often but if we can make it easier to officiate we should do that.

"It might be the wording of the rule itself, it might need just a slight tweak."

Any changes will come as part of an end-of-season review, which will also include a look into the increase in blowout scorelines and how rule changes impacted the game.

"I don't think our game needs massive change, it's in pretty good shape," Annesley said.

"I know we've had some blowouts this year and we need to look at that and try and find out why that's happened and what's contributed to it.

"We have to be careful not to knee jerk and make sure they're considered properly.

"We've had some pretty significant changes over the last two years to try and make the game more open and attractive and entertaining and that's been achieved, it's now just a matter of minor tweaks without major changes."

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