NRL to stop defenders 'jumping the gun' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL to stop defenders 'jumping the gun'

By Ben Horne 03/02/2010 06:07:38 PM Comments (0)

NRL referees are preparing to crack down on players chasing down kick receivers from offside positions in 2010.

Referees boss Robert Finch told a coaches conference on Wednesday the move will aim to prevent the "dark old days" when kick returners were targeted by players crossing the advantage line before the ball had been kicked.

Finch says a "down town" play - where a chaser moves past the play-the-ball and charges down the field before a kick has been taken - will not be tolerated by referees with heavier penalties to be enforced.

Players who are simply in front of the kicker will still be penalised as being offside, however if a player is "down town", they will be penalised as being out of play.

Penalties for this infringement will be blown where the ball was kicked, as opposed to offside penalties, which are awarded where the ball lands.

"The technicality is that in a yardage kick, the offside players cannot intentionally progress past the play the ball until the ball has gone over their head," Finch said at the conference.

"So if they've gone and the ball isn't kicked, they're out of play. We would then penalise that action back at the play the ball. It's a very big penalty."

"Our issues are that it's becoming more and more prevalent ... there's no problem putting pressure on a fullback and winger as long as you're on onside and doing it legally.

"We're very keen to make sure the great attacking fullbacks and wingers we have in our game are given the space that they should have and we'll be coming down heavily on what we call `down town' runners. That means players who have gone before the kick has gone."

Finch said one of the scrum proposals made by Wests Tigers coach, Tim Sheens could be ratified for the coming season.

Sheens pushed for a slight adjustment to the rules, which would give halfbacks the opportunity to feed scrums from the open side if they wished. Presently halves can only put the ball in from the blind side of play.

The idea will be experimented in all trial matches and if the NRL are happy with the new rule, Finch is happy to enforce it for the regular season.

The other concept raised by Sheens was for the defensive team to stand 10 metres back on scrums rather than five as it is presently.

However Finch said this won't be changed for 2010.

"That's an international law, so for us to change that now, it's too much," Finch said.

"We would talk about that again next year but it's an international law and we can't make those changes at this late stage."

On the contentious issues of obstruction and grounding the ball for a try, coaches gave their support for the NRL's interpretations.

"They can't come up with a better one," continued Finch.

"The bottom line is technology has taken us down a path that really does challenge the rule book. But the rule states a certain thing and we work to the rule book and our current interpretation ... we don't agree with it all either but in the end it's the best interpretation we have and in the end all of them are happy with that."

The dual referee system introduced last year was not discussed, however Finch said the two whistleblowers will crack down on certain things including defensive players getting off their line too quickly.

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