Ruck rule makes for middle play: Cronk

Scott Bailey
Former NRL playmaker Cooper Cronk expects attacking philosophy to change due to the six-again rule

The NRL's new six-again rule will lead to more play through the middle and teams becoming less expansive, according to champion playmaker Cooper Cronk.

Cronk played halfback in the only match ever to feature the rule, as No.7 for the NRL All Stars back in 2012.

Several clubs are believed to have gone in search of footage from that match in recent days, since the NRL removed the penalty stoppage for ruck infringements.

And six-time premiership winner Cronk predicts the smart teams will send fast men through the middle to attack tiring forwards rather than playing wide.

"If you're coming out of your own end on a kick return, and you get (a six-again), there is no real need to be adventurous to get ground position," Cronk said on Fox League.

"Particularly if you get the added advantage of the six-again, why would you use the momentum you have created then go sideways?

"I would stay in the middle of the field and attack those big bodies.

"Get the likes of Jordan Rapana, James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic (involved) who can use the football and be quick.

"They can get at the slower defenders who have had seven, eight or nine tackles to make."

Cronk also expected playmakers to get the ball on the advantage line more at first receiver and use quick play-the-balls rather than sit behind big forwards.

Ruck indiscretions were responsible for just 5.1 penalties per match in 2019.

But the NRL are hopeful more will be picked up under the new rule, with the repercussions of a penalty not weighing on the referee.

Only teams who recommit offences will be penalised or have players sin-binned.

That should create faster play-the-balls, which have traditionally become slower under one referee in Test football.

Meanwhile, Manly coach Des Hasler said he believed some teams would still attempt to attack around the edges despite the new rule.

"It probably depends on what coaches feel they have at their disposal and what way it is going to benefit their side.

"At the end of the day we shouldn't get hung up on it. It's there to protect and help the referee.

"I still think you will get to see some footy on the edges."