NRL's game-changing bunker rule given the green light weeks out from season opener

The bunker will have the power to step in and rule on any field goal this season.

Pictured Nathan Cleary
The NRL has given the bunker the power to step in and rule on any field goal this season. Image: Getty

The NRL has reportedly given the bunker power to step in and rule on any field goal this season in a massive change to how the NRL's game-defining moments are officiated. The league is looking to crack down on kick blockers, with field-goal attempts overseen the same ways as tries in 2024.

According to AAP, every field goal will be reviewed by the bunker before play restarts. This means that when an on-field referee awards a field goal, the bunker will automatically start reviewing the play and will have the power to overturn the call if an infringement is found.

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The bunker will first check if the ball has gone through the posts, before looking at if the kick was taken from outside the 40-metre line and then see if any defenders were obstructed. On the flip, if a field-goal attempt is missed and the ball goes dead, the bunker will check for any foul play and ensure the markers are square before pressuring the kicker.

MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Jackson Hastings of the Knights attempts a field goal during the round five NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and Newcastle Knights at Glen Willow Sporting Complex on April 01, 2023 in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Every field goal will be reviewed by the bunker before play restarts for the 2024 season. Image: Getty

If bunker officials deem there is potential illegal play, on-field referees will be told to delay the game while they make a decision. However, the bunker will be unable to rule on the defensive line being offside. That will only be determined by the on-field referee's live decision.

With the new change, kick blockers will be the ones under the most scrutiny. The NRL has also warned that attackers who loiter around the ruck in an attempt to block defenders from pressuring kickers will be penalised under the new change.

Graham Annesley says previous field goals would be denied in 2024

In a video compiled last week by the NRL, head of football Graham Annesley showed multiple field goals that would have been denied in 2023 for reasons such as attackers standing next to or near the play-the-ball, forcing defenders to run around them to get to the kicker. "This is something that has got progressively worse over time and one where we need to enforce the existing rule," Annesley explained in the video.

"Players don't have to be a certain number of metres behind the ruck. But there is also a rule which talks about deliberately obstructing another player not in possession of the ball. If the players are forming that kind of blocking action ... the referee ... and the bunker can determine that is an obstruction, and penalise for that."

Annesley confirmed penalties would only be called if kick blockers had got in the way of chasers. The NRL also said they considered giving the bunker power to rule on forward passes, but ended up deciding against it after an off-season review determined it remained too difficult.

with AAP

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