NRL announces rule changes for 2022 season

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The NRL has cracked down on teams attempting to use the six-again rule for tactical advantage in the biggest rule tweak for 2022.

League officials confirmed another three changes on Wednesday that relate to injury stoppages, free interchanges from foul play and team list protocols.

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The amendment to the set-restart rule will stop teams deliberately slowing the ruck early in the set on defence, with any 10m or ruck infringements in an opposition’s 40m zone now resulting in a penalty.

In 2021, the competition’s elite sides were able to exploit the six-again rule – last year’s premiers, the Penrith Panthers, conceded almost 75 per cent of their set restarts in their opposition’s half, which was the highest percentage of any NRL side.

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One of the best defensive units in rugby league history, the 2021 Panthers realised that giving away an extra set early in the tackle count while they had territorial advantage posed low risk and would slow down the play-the-ball, buying the side time to reconfigure its defence.

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The Parramatta Eels, who finished sixth, employed similar tactics, giving away the second-highest percentage of their set restarts inside their opponent’s half.

The NRL has moved to stamp out the cunning defensive play.

“This will provide an additional deterrence to defending teams who are willing to concede set restarts to gain a tactical advantage,” the NRL said in a statement.

“It will also provide more opportunities for teams receiving the penalty to attack from a better field position.”

Meanwhile, the NRL has barred trainers from stopping play if a player is injured, except in the instance of head knocks.

It means only the referee, touch judge or The Bunker will be able to call for time off in the case of other injuries.

The move comes after Penrith physio Pete Green was banned from the preliminary final and decider for controversially stopping play when Mitch Kenny injured his ankle in the semi-final win over Parramatta.

At the time, the Eels were down by two points and had possession of the ball close to Penrith’s line in the dying minutes.

Penrith was fined $25,000 but denied the move was tactical.

The incident proved a breaking point for the NRL following similar incidents towards the business end of recent seasons.

“Trainers will retain the ability to stop play where a head injury has occurred,” the NRL statement said.

“Medical trainers will continue to have unlimited access to the field at any time to treat an injured player.”

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Camera IconInjury ruled Mitch Kenny out of the 2021 grand final. Fox Credit: FOX SPORTS

In another change, foul play will only result in a free interchange for the victim’s team if the perpetrator is sin-binned or sent off.

Last season, teams were also given free interchanges if the rival player was placed on report, which is far more common.

Clubs exploited the rule in 2021 by bringing off the affected player, only to bring him straight back on again, effectively getting two interchanges for the price of one.

NRL teams will name 22-player squads each Tuesday that will include the 18th man.

As of last season, the 18th man can be brought on when three or more players fail their HIAs or when a player fails his HIA through foul play.

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