The NRL has sent a strong message to players that referees will come down hard on high shots, urging match officials to use sin bins and send-offs more often.
An edict was sent to all match officials, clubs and players on Wednesday reminding them of the need to adhere to the rules, with referees especially told to take a “minimal tolerance” approach to avoidable contact with the head or neck.
This includes using “the sin bin or send-off mechanisms” more often to show players behaving badly there will be serious repercussions for their on-field actions.
“While incidental or minor contact will continue to be penalised and potentially placed on report, on-field officials and the NRL Bunker have been encouraged to use the sin bin or send-off mechanisms for contact deemed careless or reckless and involving a significant degree of force around the head and neck,” an NRL statement read.
“The reminder is based on the commission’s focus on ensuring player safety remains the game’s highest priority.”
The NRL’s warning comes just a week after head of football Graham Annesley made an impassioned plea for players to stop dangerous contact with the head or neck, declaring the game will smash suspension records this year without immediate change.
Annesley’s frustration was sparked from damning statistics that revealed players had already spent a combined 47 weeks on the sidelines through suspension this year.
NRL referees have been encouraged to use the sin bin and send-offs more often to stop high contact. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
St George Illawarra winger Jordan Pereira only received a three-game suspension for his high shot on Roosters captain James Tedesco on Anzac Day that ruled Tedesco out for the majority of the game with concussion.
Pereira wasn’t sent to the sin bin, which attracted criticism across the game.
The NRL statement also said match officials would take “stronger action” for teams who continuously or deliberately made “tactical breaches” after “six-again” calls for 10m and ruck infringements.
It comes after Penrith coach Ivan Cleary accused teams of “disrupting” his side, with a “clear tactic” to lay on his team by giving away six-again calls.
Cleary was particularly vocal when his Panthers defeated Newcastle in round 7, prompting Knights coach Adam O’Brien to hail the comments “disappointing”.
However, the NRL believes the tactic of giving away “six-again” penalties on the first tackle of sets won’t be tolerated.
“On-field officials will consider appropriate use of a penalty and sin bin, if it’s considered necessary under the circumstances, to ensure a higher level of compliance, including for repeat infringements or deliberate infringements early in the set,” the statement said.
“This does not need to be the same player on consecutive occasions. The team receives a general warning and the next player that infringes in the ensuing period could be sin binned.
“When the ‘six again’ was introduced it allowed for penalties and sin binning for repeated offences.”
The NRL will also implement measures to ensure the public can more easily understand the reason for “six-again” calls.
The specific nature of the breach (10m or ruck infringement) will be communicated via the public-address system and big screen graphics.
The game is also working with broadcasters to enable this to be displayed during television broadcasts to ensure fans are aware of the decision. The NRL, Fox Sports and Nine are aligned in their desire to give fans the best possible and most informative viewing experience.
The “six-again” bell will continue to ring for infringements.
This communication is aimed at ensuring the game remains as safe as possible for players and entertaining and free flowing for NRL fans.
Referees will also be more vigilant in identifying players who break from scrums before the call of “break” by the referee.
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