NRL coaches speak out against rule changes, follows referee reduction

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The Australian Rugby League Commission will consider dropping the number of NRL referees from two to one, as well as a ruck rule change proposed by Project Apollo.

The Commission requested the NRL’s Project Apollo consider reverting to one referee for the competition restart on May 28 to reduce costs.

The committee will also propose a rule change in the ruck, where the tackle count will be restarted on the run instead of awarding a penalty for infringements.

NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley told AAP reverting to one referee would align the competition with international rules.

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“The commission asked Apollo to consider it, so it was discussed today along with another innovation to reduce the number of penalties in the play the ball by awarding six more tackles rather than blowing the whistle and stopping the game for a penalty kick,” he said.

“They were the two innovations that Apollo considered today.

“They still need to do some more work on those proposals and that will happen early next week before the recommendation goes to the commission and the commission will make the ultimate decision.”

Annesley said while there would be an adjustment period for referees and teams to adapt, the rule changes would not be a “major issue”.

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It comes after NRL coaches voiced their opposition to major rule changes ahead of the anticipated season restart on May 28 with exception of adding an 18th man when a team is disadvantaged by foul play.

Although they were not discussed at Friday’s meeting, Project Apollo has previously flagged a raft of rule changes to ease players into the competition when it starts next month.

Leading NRL coaches Trent Robinson and Wayne Bennett both sit on the committee.

Proposed rule changes have included extending halftime, drinks breaks every 20 minutes and increasing the number of interchanges.

However, on Friday North Queensland coach Paul Green said because two rounds had already been played, any rule change would impact the integrity of the competition.

“The general feeling amongst most of the coaches is that we shouldn’t be tinkering with the rules,” he said.

“The comp loses a little bit of integrity if you start for a period under one set of rules and then play the rest of the year for a different set of rules.”

It’s understood NRL coaches have also voted against increasing the interchange from eight to 10.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor said he is also opposed to any rule changes but said there is merit in adding an 18th man for player safety.

“I think the 18th man is a decent decision because the impact it could have on other players and the lack of the progression in contact,” he said.

“Usually you go from getting off the ground, which we can do comfortably now, into pad work, into contact, into collision.

“With that only two-week period window there to do that, it makes sense to have an 18th person that could take the field if you lose someone through foul play or a concussion.”

©AAP2020

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