Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Rugby League on the move?

The new Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has been busy during the off season. They have, for a change been on the front foot, introducing several new changes which will come into place at the beginning of the 2013 National Rugby League (NRL) season.

It was announced today that there will be major changes to the benefit of the doubt rule. Referees must now make a decision on all tries before asking the video referee for assistance. The video referee will then review the evidence and will only overturn the decision if there is strong evidence to suggest the original decision was wrong. A similar procedure occurs in International Cricket.

 According to Ben Doherty from, if the referee awards the try and then goes upstairs it looks like he doubts his own decision and on the other hand if he goes upstairs and it is overturned the referee looks incompetent. He may be right, but in the end no one will care how the referees’ come to a decision as long as they get it right.

Image courtesy of the Daily Telegraph
Changes have also been made to the State of Origin eligibility rules. No player will be eligible for either NSW or Queensland unless they have lived in that state before the age of 13 and they must be eligible to play for Australia.

The final change of banning the shoulder charge is the most crucial change to the NRL laws. It was long overdue.

It comes down to one simple issue. Duty of Care. The ARLC, as the governing body of the sport has a duty of care to protect the players from unreasonable harm. With increasing evidence coming from the USA suggesting that repetitive head knocks can cause brain damage, the ARLC had no choice and made the correct decision. The players kicked up a fuss, as expected, saying that it will detract from the toughness of the game, but will the State of Origin be less exciting as a result? Unlikely. Little do they know that the decision to ban the shoulder charge is in their long term health interests.

If the ARLC did not ban the shoulder charge they would have left themselves open to several lawsuits in the future from former players who since retiring have suffered ongoing health problems as a result of repetitive head knocks. The National Football League (NFL) in the USA ignored the evidence and has been sued by several past players as a result.

The current crop of NRL players will very thankful that the shoulder charge is banned come their retirement and they attempt to get on with life after footy.

Let’s hope the ARLC keep up the good work.

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