NRL teams denied one-referee scrimmage

Matt Encarnacion and Scott Bailey
It will be left to coaches like Cronulla's John Morris (l) to train their teams under new rules

NRL teams will have to resume the season without proper testing of the league's controversial rule changes due to border restrictions enforced by COVID-19.

The governing body have confirmed no clubs will enjoy the benefit of scrimmages under an NRL referee prior to the re-start of the competition on May 28.

It is understood travel restrictions into Queensland means it will be unfair for some teams to receive the coaching and not those based in the sunshine state.

The development has left coaches to implement the radical six-again ruling without guidance from an official whistleblower.

It has also presented challenges for referees, who too will go into the opening round blind given their lack of contact with players and the rule.

"(The specifics) aren't really going to be known until we play a few games," Manly coach Des Hasler said.

"I don't even think the referees will know. I don't think anyone is going to know the reaction to the rule change until we see it.

"Until we start playing a couple of games I think there are going to have to be tweaks on the run.

"I think the six-again call will help the referee definitely ... As long as they are open to feedback."

Hasler has been among the most vocal critics of referees at times during his coaching career, but wanted the league to give them time.

Cronulla coach John Morris also admitted it was a challenge trying to put the new rules into practice without having access to the referees.

"We normally get them in a couple of times a week to referee our scrimmages and arm wrestles," Morris said.

"Just to help with their interpretations and how they control the game.

"We haven't had that, and probably won't, so we've had our own trainers out trying to get the new rule into the way we play the game.

"We managed it pretty good (on Thursday). They handled it okay but there's still confusion around what constitutes six again."

The ARL Commission this week also approved a move back to a one-referee model for the first time since a dual-system was introduced over a decade ago.

The sensational changes prompted the referees' union to lodge a dispute with the Fair Work Commission in a bid to overturn the decision.

The Professional Rugby League Match Officials claim the league had no right to make changes to its officiating under the current enterprise agreement.

Conciliation talks have been adjourned to Tuesday, giving parties just nine days to find a resolution before the start of round three.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo is optimistic their decision will stand and that strike action will be avoided.

"Obviously we respect the position that they've taken," he said on Friday.

"We believe that we've followed the correct process and we're confident that we'll be able to resolve that between now and next week."