NRL players getting the message: Annesley

·2-min read

Players are responding to the NRL's concussion crackdown, with recent figures showing a drop in serious contact with the head and neck.

The competition's head of football Graham Annesley says figures from the past four rounds, when the NRL's new stance on tougher on-field punishment for high contact came into force, showed a change in player behaviour.

Annesley on Monday made public high-tackle figures that considered six categories including penalties, players placed on report, players sin-binned, players sent off, the number of incidents reviewed by the match review committee (MRC), and charges laid from that.

The numbers showed that penalties for high tackles are up from round 10 to last weekend's round 13 which only featured four games.

Players put on report has settled after a spike of 19 in round 12, with nine in the last round.

However Annesley was most pleased that the more serious offences looked to have dropped with sin-bins, send-offs, players put on report and MRC charges for high tackles all down.

There were 10 charges in round 10, 14 in round 11, eight in round 12 and five out the last round.

"I think this actually tells an interesting story - what I'm seeing and what I think this is telling us is that whilst we are still seeing contact with the head (and) neck, we're seeing less serious contact," Annesley said on Monday at his weekly briefing.

"I think that the players have started adjusting their tackling style and we're seeing more incidents where the referees can penalise for minor contact that is not forceful.

"I think what we're doing is we're transferring some of the more serious incidents out of sin bins and send-offs into penalties and placed on report."

He said that while some would conclude it was because referees had backed down due to heated criticism, that wasn't the case.

"If you go through the weekend's games, any incident of direct, forceful contact still resulted in a sin-bin.

"We saw a number of incidents where players were sent to the bin for direct forceful contact, but we're seeing far less of those types of tackles."

Annesley also revealed that injuries are down across the board, despite claims that the pace of the game and increased fatigue has caused an injury spike.

The data included players who were forced to leave the field through injury or miss at least one game.

"The number of injuries falling into those categories has actually dropped," Annesley said.

"It's down by around 30 injuries from this time last year ... we are actually down on the same time last year and hopefully we'll see that trend continue."