NRL Reverts back to One Referee and introduces 6 Again rule change

13th May 2020

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has agreed the Telstra Premiership will use one on-field referee for the remainder of the season and introduce six more tackles rather than a penalty stoppage for ruck infringements. Referees will retain the right to issue a full penalty and place players in the sin bin for persistent ruck infringements and professional fouls. The Commission tonight determined the changes would create more entertaining and free flowing rugby league. Under the changes, the referee will be given the ability to deal with ruck infringements without interrupting the flow of the game by awarding six more tackles rather than a stoppage for a penalty. Changes to the refereeing model will include full time referees being used as touch judges to provide more experience to sideline officiating. Currently, the touch judges are employed on a part time basis. This will ensure three experienced first grade referees will be on the field at all times.

ARLC Chairman Peter Vílandys AM said the Commissionís decision would address ongoing issues around wrestling and slow play the balls. "The decision shouldnít been seen as taking one referee out it should be that we are using three full time experienced referees controlling the game which will ensure greater surveillance of the ruck and the wrestle," he said. "This decision will significantly reduce the number of stoppages in games and showcase more open unstructured play for the benefit of fans. These decisions address the issue of wrestling and slowing the ruck down which has been the biggest issue in the game. Itís clear the current system hasnít effectively addressed the issue of wrestling in the game. Reverting to one referee together with the new six again rule gives us a chance to speed up the ruck and create more free flowing rugby league. Giving the attacking team six more tackles for a ruck infringement will be a significant deterrent to slowing the ruck. No team is going to want to defend multiple sets of tackles without a stoppage in play. This is the greatest disincentive for what has become habitual ruck infringements."

The NRL is the only rugby league competition in the world that uses two referees and the game will now be internationally aligned Mr Vílandys said the Commission had also taken into account the view of fans when making the decision. "When I became Chairman, I said I would listen to the fans. Last year we conducted a fan survey and the overwhelming majority of fans said they wanted to go back to one referee and their views should be taken on board." The Commission has given a commitment that all 22 full time referees will be retained for the remainder of the season and there is no intent to reduce that number in 2021. The Commission will review the one referee model at the end of the year to determine whether it remains a permanent fixture for future seasons.

6 Again rule change clarification

15th May 2020

Players considered to be exploiting the NRLís new "six-again" rule for ruck infringements will be penalised and sent to the sin bin. NRL head of football Graham Annesley gave clubs details on Friday about the new rule, which is designed to speed up the game through the referee restarting the tackle count instead of awarding a penalty for an offence in the ruck.

The referee will signal "six-again" for any defensive ruck infringement that in the past would have resulted in a penalty, including

  • holding down
  • hand on the ball
  • crowding at the play-the-ball
  • and leg pulls.

    However, a penalty will be awarded for a professional foul or repeated infringements if a team attempts to slow the play down so their defensive line can get set.

    Significantly, any time the referee penalises a player for a professional foul or repeated infringements in the ruck, the offender will be automatically sent to the sin bin. A repeated infringement scenario may arise where multiple "six-again" restarts have been awarded and, in the opinion of the referee, harsher action is required. Teams do not have to be warned about repeated infringements before the referee awards a full penalty and send the offending player to the sin bin as a stronger deterrent.

    A penalty will still be awarded for stripping the ball or any other infringement by the defending team which results in a lost ball or an unacceptable play-the-ball necessitating a stoppage.

    A marker not standing square at the play-the-ball will be considered offside and will result in a penalty.

    Players will continue to be penalised for foul play, including grapple tackles, facials and chicken wings as the NRL tries to reduce wrestling from the game.

    Infringements by the attacking team will still be penalised.

    If, in the opinion of the referee, the attacking team deliberately breaks down play in an attempt to convert "six-again" to a full penalty, the referee will order a scrum to be packed with the defending team being awarded the feed.

    The NRL has also outlined how match officials will police the ruck and 10 metres under the one-referee model to be introduced when the Telstra Premiership resumes on May 28. The referee will primarily control the 10 metres with the assistance of the open side touch judge, while the touch judge closest to the play-the-ball will assist with the control of the ruck and may step on the field of play to do so. The Refs' Bunker will monitor the rucks and may assist the referee when the opportunity presents during breaks in play.

    PRLMO Referees Association Lodges formal Dispute on One Referee System

    14th May 2020

    Professional Rugby League Match Officials Incorporated (PRLMO) are extremely disappointed with Fridayís announcement by the National Rugby League (NRL) that it will seek approval from the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) to return to a one referee model in 2020. Since the Game shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PRLMO has sought to engage in meaningful ongoing negotiations with the NRL regarding the proposed restart. The match officials have already made significant personal sacrifices to assist in making the restart viable and had indicated they were ready to further play their part in ensuring the long-term interests of the Game. Returning to a single referee model was never raised in any of the discussions and is a decision that has wide-reaching implications across the Game. PRLMO Chairman Silvio Del Vecchio spoke of his deep disappointment at the level of disrespect the NRL has once again shown towards the PRLMO and the officiating squad, "We find it absolutely outrageous that the NRL chose to announce this to our members at the same time as they issued a media release flagging a return to one referee," he said. "We have long sought a relationship with the NRL based on mutual respect and transparency. If the NRL genuinely want to restart the competition on May 28, they will need to consider a conciliatory approach towards our members moving forward."

    Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) Incorporated have today lodged a Dispute Notice with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) under their Enterprise Agreement, regarding the decision to move from two referees in the National Rugby League (NRL) to one. The PRLMO represents the vast majority of NRL match officials, both full time and casuals, and it is their understanding that the NRL do not have the option to change the officiating model during the term of the Agreement, which extends to the end of 2022. The Dispute Notice now forces the NRL to engage in meaningful dialogue with the match officials via the PRLMO, something they have been seeking for weeks since the competition was first suspended. The PRLMO sincerely hope this dialogue will enable resolution. If not, it is their understanding that the matter may proceed to the Fair Work Commission for conciliation, and then if necessary, to arbitration whereby the FWC itself decides the matter. The PRLMO are confident that in this circumstance the FWC would rule in their favour and enforce the retention of the current two-referee officiating model. They anticipate this outcome can be achieved prior to the first game on May 28. The PRLMO are providing instruction on this matter to Michael Harmer of Harmers Workplace Lawyers. Harmers are associated with the PRLMO as a partner since early in 2020.

    In taking this action, they are mindful of the wider interests of all stakeholders in the game of rugby league, including fans, sponsors, clubs and players. The PRLMO and its members are concerned that the proposed change to a single referee model has enormous implications, and yet the notice period prior to a decision has been only two working days (Monday, 11 and Tuesday, 12 May). PRLMO Chairman Silvio Del Vecchio said, "We are determined that on the 28th of May the quality of our Game as we know it it will be retained, by being officiated under the current model that has been tested and successful for more than a decade. It is in the best interests of the safety of players, and the integrity of the Game itself." In their submission to the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) meeting on Wednesday, the PRLMO provided seven reasons why any change required longer and more careful planning and wider consultation. These reasons included:

  • Duty of care to players
  • Duty of care to match officials
  • The best interests of fans and sponsors
  • Potential errors in calculation of the financial saving, which is the primary rationale provided by the NRL and ARLC

    The consistent messages of the NRL about the superiority of the two-referee model, including as recently as last yearís Grand Final. With regards to the duty of care to players, for example, the PRLMO is aware that a very high percentage of incidents of potential harm to players is detected by the second centre official (the assist ref); without the assist refís unique angle, incidents are more likely to go undetected, such as contact with the head of a ball-carrier in a tackle. The assist ref thereby also enables more timely application of HIA rules. It is important to note that the intention of this action by the PRLMO is to ensure that the NRL engages in dialogue, which it has so far failed to do. "We continue to ask the NRL to engage in open dialogue with us, yet they continue to ignore those requests", Del Vecchio said. This Dispute Notice seeks merely to enforce workplace laws. The NRL and PRLMO freely entered into the Enterprise Agreement and neither party can act outside of it. These actions do not prevent the competition from commencing on May 28 but do influence the officiating model that will apply.

    NRL and PRLMO Agree to proceed with One Referee in 2020

    22nd May 2020

    The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the match officials today reached an agreement to resolve its dispute ahead of the resumption of the 2020 NRL competition on May 28. The breakthrough followed a meeting between Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Vílandys AM and the fulltime referees. It was agreed:

  • One referee will officiate NRL Competition Matches for the remainder of the 2020 season
  • A minimum of 22 full-time referee positions will be retained in 2020 and 2021
  • A review of the new system will be conducted when the season ends by a working group consisting of representation from players, coaches, referees and NRL management
  • Its recommendations will be presented to the ARLC Commission for their consideration in determining the future officiating model for the NRL Competition.

    The referees and match officials then voted to withdraw their claim before the Fair Work Commission and instructed the PRLMO to do so. ARLC Chairman Peter Vílandys AM welcomed the resolution and said the outcome was in the best interests of the game. "This is an excellent outcome for the game and all its stakeholders. Can I thank the individual referees for the way they conducted themselves during todayís discussion," he said. "It was heart-warming to see their desire that nothing stands in the way of the 28th May commencement of our great game and they want to be an integral part of its success."


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