New rules pushing NRL to dangerous level of speed
NRL stars have formally expressed "concern and frustration" at rugby league's new rule changes, claiming the laws were pushed through without in-depth consultation.
And the players were deeply worried the rule alterations has pushed rugby league to dangerous level of speed which will result in injury.
RLPA chief executive Clint Newton said the rule changes should be "constantly monitored" throughout the season with the NRL asked to act if players' concerns grow louder.
Newton, the former Newcastle Knights forward, also stressed players did not have sufficient time digest the rule changes before they were implemented.
Players who spoke with The Daily Telegraph asked three questions of the NRL: What is the aim of the rule changes? Does more ball in play constitute a better game? What is the end goal?
Newton has spoken to multiple players over the past three weeks about the "priorities moving forward and getting their views on their industry."
Watch Live & On-Demand coverage of NRL pre-season trial matches on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial now & start streaming instantly >
"And, during that process, players have raised concerns with us regarding the most recent set of rule changes and the process that was worked through," Newton said.
"It is a common theme of frustration in our recent club visits and it is our role to bring those concerns forward to the NRL, which we have done, and we will continue to work through them with the NRL.
"We need to make sure we are constantly reviewing these changes and how it is impacting on the players, both positively and negatively. It all comes back to ensuring that players have an ability to be heard.
"(One issue) was the process, how the rules changes were brought through and whether players had enough time to properly work through any of the areas discussed by the new (NRL) innovations committee and to get their feedback collectively. The facts are that increased fatigue does increase the chance of injury and this needs to be monitored.
"What process are we going to work through when reviewing these rules? This is about being provided with the necessary time to consider changes and get the views across-the-board.
"There has been back-to-back years of significant rule changes that have had a massive impact on the intensity and speed of the game. That can't be disputed, that's reality, that's fact. We are one of very few codes that has significantly increased the demands on players. That needs to be considered.
"Because any change that does impact on the players through increased demands, increased intensity and increased speed needs to be properly worked through.
"What the players are looking for is: 'What is the process when we're looking to review these rule changes?' And what data is being collected and how. And if it is having a negative impact on players, then making sure we are in a position to make the necessary adjustments."
Sydney Roosters' Luke Keary and South Sydney's Damien Cook were part of the NRL innovations committee but the RLPA claim the pair, while involved in discussions, did not make the final decision, that being made by the ARL Commission.
Two rule changes designed to hasten play this season are a six again call for ten metre infringements and a play-the-ball restart if the ball or a player goes into touch.
The NRL claimed on Wednesday it would continue to monitor player data surround the rule changes from every game.
"We have always worked through a very thorough process with the playing group to ensure we have taken into consideration all of our members and the varying positions they have and then the impact of any rule change and how that will impact on them. We need more players involved in the decision-making process," Newton said.
"Players are the one impacted the most. They are the ones taking the field and having to manage it week in, week out. We want our best players playing each weekend and playing for as long as they can.
"We understand the desire to prioritise the entertainment value of the sport for the broadcaster and the importance to members and supporters of the game but we also need to ensure that there is a right balance and the impact on players has to remain paramount when any rule changes are being introduced."
NRL PHYSIO REACTION
The NRL must tread carefully when introducing new rules to speed up the game after a rise in major injuries during last year's pandemic-hit season.
Rule changes were implemented during the COVID break in an attempt to increase fatigue in the game and make it more exciting.
However, clubs were only given just over three weeks to take their players from isolation training to full NRL games under the new rules.
The COVID protocols also brought about major challenges that likely contributed to the increased injury rate, such as reduced medical/support staff, game-day travel to and from games and isolation at home.
Balancing fatigue, performance and the risk of injuries is a challenge the NRL faces as it looks to implement further rule changes.
While increasing the amount of time the ball is in play and decreasing stoppages is great for fans, players will likely be required to change their games and body types to decrease their risk of injury and maintain a high level of performance on the field.
Thankfully, teams have had more than three months since the new rules were announced for medical and performance staff to prepare the players for the new challenges their bodies will need to meet.
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to fatigue and injury risk:
● Less fatigue in the game will increase the speed and power of players, and therefore the bigger collisions will increase traumatic injury rates;
● More fatigue in the game and more time with the ball in play will expose players to a higher number of "at risk events" (tackles/runs). As they tire, their decision-making will also be impaired.
Fatigue is also a known risk factor for soft-tissue injuries.
The key to maximising player safety on the field is finding a balance between the fatigue and
freshness of players.
While the rules will certainly result in more fatigue among players this season, it will be important to monitor injury rates to see if this balance has shifted too far from player safety and performance.
Originally published as New rules pushing NRL to dangerous level of speed