The six again rule has the best intentions, but it is fundamentally flawed.
I like the thinking of Saint Peter V’Landys but I think teams and coaches will outsmart the man who can do no wrong. Here is why: the speed of the game is so quick that if a team is to give away a six again infringement then it will almost always result in the team that receives the penalty being in an attacking position.
We have seen this with the seven tackle set rule. Teams get into good attacking position and are looking to score or get a repeat set. The six again is a massive advantage as opposition teams get no time to reset their lines or rest and can benefit with 11 straight tackles.
I foresee smart coaches looking to give away the type of penalties, a strip with multiple tackles for example, that result in the ball being kicked out and defensive lines being reset.
Saint Peter V'landys is an early contender for Australian of the Year (probably not true).
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To offer up a solution for administrators I think they can achieve a quicker ruck without the threat of manipulation from wily coaches. The NRL should scrap all kick for touch penalties and the six again rule is changed to a ‘no tackle’.
So, let’s take the following scenario to help explain the situation. It is the third tackle and it has been a slow play the ball. The referee calls ‘no tackle, 3rd’ the previous tackle didn’t count toward the six tackles a team gets. If a ball is stripped or there is a foul play (high tackle, shoulder charge, etc), then the tackle count restarts and the play the ball occurs at the mark of the infringement as soon as possible. Defensive teams have no time to reset lines and no time to rest.
For repeat infringements or attempts to slow the game down then the sin bin needs to be utilised. I think the bin would be more effective if it was perhaps shortened, say it was the lesser of either next points scored or two attacking sets for the team that still has 13 troops on the field.
While I am on a roll here, I have one more rule change that I think will be the panacea to the wrestle. The wrestle is brought about because defensive teams aren’t able contest for the ball as soon as two players are in the tackle. The only other element to control for the defensive teams is the player carrying the ball. So to eliminate that, the strip should be allowed no matter how many in the tackle. I know what you are thinking: “But that will be chaos, teams will hold players up and then strip the ball”.
To eliminate the ‘catch and hold’ and the ruck manipulation, held is called when the player is on the ground or just after first initial contact is made to counter the catch and hold. There are secondary benefits to promote exciting football with this change to the strip rule. If teams are going to focus on the strip and not the tackle it could lead to less effective tackle technique and more line breaks.
There’s a couple of ideas to help Saint Peter and the team at NRL HQ, what do you think? I am sure there is one thing we can absolutely agree on - how good is to have the League back!