NRL reduces Bunker intervention, 18th-man threshold among rule tweaks

The NRL has moved to reduce bunker intervention “to ensure fewer needless stoppages” during games and reduced the threshold of failed HIAs to trigger the 18th man substitute in 2023.

A review of last season and consultation with clubs and the RLPA has led to a raft of interpretation changes being announced on Thursday, taking in concussion protocols, captains’ challenges, grounding of the ball for tries and offside rulings.

The always-contentious video referee will now “only intervene for acts of foul play which it deems to be reportable”, an NRL statement read.

A team’s 18th interchange player will also now be able to be used if two teammates are ruled out of a game by failed Head Injury Assessments, rather than the three that has been the norm since 2021.

Players and coaches, led by Australian captain James Tedesco in the Roosters’ season-ending finals loss last season, have led calls for an easing of the 18th-man protocols after instances where multiple concussions left teams with one or no replacement players.

“While relatively minor, these changes will improve three elements of the game – player safety, the game presentation for fans and offside compliance,” NRL football manager Graham Annesley said.

James Tedesco before a HIA ruled him out of the game.Credit:Getty

“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.”

More to come

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