Late hits, high and crusher tackles, shoulder charges, diving at the legs of kickers and other cheap shots will now be met with time off the field after the Australian Rugby League Commission endorsed changes to the game’s sin-bin rules.
From this weekend, referees will be given discretion to sit players down for serious instances of foul play, even if their victims are able to continue playing the game.
ARLC Chairman Peter Beattie stressed player safety is paramount.
“You have to protect them, if we don’t protect them as a game, and we are responsible for running it, then we aren’t doing our job,” he said.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said “there has been a tendency for referees to nit-pick” this season. (AAP: Craig Golding)
The adjustment comes after a number of unsavoury incidents in recent weeks, including Canberra forward Charlie Gubb diving at the legs of Panther Nathan Cleary after he kicked the ball, and Manly forward Jack Gosiewski’s late shot on Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston.
After that match a noticeably angry Thurston lashed out.
“It shitts me,” he said. “It’s not part of our team, not how we go about our business … What’s it going to take? A broken rib and be out for three-four weeks before they really stamp down on it?”
Both Gubb and Gosiewski were suspended for one and two matches respectively, but the implementation of these new rules will give an immediate advantage to the opposition team.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg says the mid-season changes were not the result of external pressure.
“I just thought it was the right decision to make and it was very strongly supported by the people sitting around the competition committee,” he said.
Greenberg also addressed the continued criticism of refereeing across the competition this season. There has been an alarming number of penalties blown already in 2018.
“There has been a tendency I think for the referees to continue to nit-pick, so we have to be really careful that we find the balance,” he said.
“I don’t want referees looking for penalties, what I want referees to do is police those areas that we have tasked them to do, and allow the game to flow.
“They are not going to be perfect but that’s the strong directive that will continue to come.”
Clubs to get salary cap relief for injured rep stars
The ARL Commission also backed a proposal that will allow clubs to cover for players who suffer a long-term injury while participating in a representative match.
Clubs can now sign a replacement player and access a salary cap exemption of up to $350,000 dollars.
The rule will come in to effect immediately.