NRL 2023 Rule Amendments

12th January 2023

The Commission, after extensive consultation with all stakeholders, has decided not to introduce any new Rules for the 2023 season. However, the stakeholders requested clarification on existing Interpretations. The NRL has confirmed the following amendments to existing Laws and Interpretations ahead of the 2023 NRL Pre-Season and Premiership. The changes are designed to enhance the existing Laws and Interpretations which have led to a faster, more free-flowing and unpredictable game.

"While relatively minor, these changes will improve three elements of the game – player safety, the game presentation for fans and off-side compliance," NRL Executive General Manager – Elite Football Graham Annesley said. "We undertook a thorough review of the 2022 season, including consultation with the NRL Clubs, the RLPA and other stakeholders. The overriding feedback was the current interpretations are creating a faster and more free-flowing game, but there was a need to address some minor issues which have emerged. These changes will allow Clubs and players clarity on certain issues while also giving fans more entertainment and transparency as the game evolves in 2023."

The rule amendments are as follows:

Grounding the Ball

Tries will now be awarded if the ball rotates from the hand to the wrist or forearm provided there is no obvious separation between the ball and the hand or arm. The new interpretation will allow further clarity for officials when adjudicating grounding.

Operation of the 18th player rule

The number of failed head injury assessments will be reduced from three (3) to two (2) to trigger the activation of the 18th player. This will allow greater flexibility for Clubs which lose multiple players to head injuries in a match.

Intervention of Bunker in Foul Play

The Bunker may only intervene for acts of foul play which it deems to be reportable. The change will ensure fewer needless stoppages while also confirming a firmer process around foul play intervention.

Captain’s Challenge

A challenge may be initiated after the referee blows his whistle to stop play, rather than only after a decision resulting in a structured restart. Decisions which cannot be challenged will continue to include forward passes, roll balls and discretionary penalties including 10m offside, ruck infringements relating to play-the-ball speed, tackled into touch after held call and dissent. A Challenge can be made following the final play in each half provided the referee has not already called half or full-time.

Off-side infringements at scrums

A full penalty will be awarded (rather than a set restart), for off-side scrum infringements by the defensive team anywhere on the field. The non-infringing team will retain the option of repacking the scrum or taking the awarded penalty. Any team which deliberately locks the ball in the scrum to trap defenders in an off-side position will also be penalised.

10m compliance in general play

Active defenders must have both feet in line or behind the referee when setting the 10-metre defensive line. Referees will have the option of awarding a full penalty for multiple 10m breaches without requiring the mandatory use of the sin bin. Referees can still use the sin bin if they consider breaches to be deliberate or cynical.

Adjudication of completed tackles

Referees will issue a single call of “held/release” when a tackle is complete, rather than the separate calls of “held” and “release”. The change will address unnecessary slowing of the play-the-ball and improve game continuity.

Ref - NRL [Viewed 14 Jan 2023] / FN-2

NRL Changes to Head Injury Protcols

15th March 2023

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has approved changes to the NRL’s head injury protocols, including the introduction of a mandatory 11-day stand-down following a diagnosed concussion. The Commission approved the new stand-down procedure following a review of the data and advice from a range of experts. The new requirement, which applies to concussions diagnosed both at training and during games, will take effect from Thursday 16 March 2023 being the commencement of Round 3.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys AM said: "There is no greater priority for us than player safety. It’s front and centre of everything we do. Our current head injury protocols are exceptionally strong. Following a review of the data and the expert advice we have received, the Commission have enhanced these protocols even further by providing a mandatory 11 day stand down period following a diagnosed concussion." In exceptional circumstances, Clubs will have the ability to apply for exemption to the 11-day stand-down period, through a review by an independent neurological expert appointed by the NRL. This application will only be allowable where the following set criteria are met:

  • Category 1 signs/symptoms are not observed
  • The player is asymptomatic the day following the concussion
  • Cognitive testing has returned to normal
  • The player has suffered fewer than five previous career concussions
  • The player has no previously diagnosed concussions within the previous three months
  • The player has no history of a previous concussion with prolonged recovery

    The Commission will continue to procure the best scientific information from experts in the field. Further, the Commission will continue to monitor the latest technologies including blood and saliva testing as a tool for diagnosing concussion and continue to implement programs such as tackle technique education and tools to further prevent injuries. Player welfare is and will always be the number one priority.

    Ref - NRL [Viewed 16 Mar 2023] / FN-2

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