NRL fans are enjoying five more sets per game under their radical new rules, prompting head of football Graham Annesley to declare the changes a success.
The league on Monday revealed a mammoth 31.2 increase in total play-the-balls per game in round three compared to the opening two rounds of the competition.
It resulted in an extra three minutes of ball in play and a spike in fatigue, prompting a climb in line breaks per game from 5.25 to eight.
And while Annesley admits the one round is a small sample size, it’s exactly what the league was hoping for when it controversially implemented its six again rule.
The NRL wanted to make the game more enjoyable to play and watch.
“You’d have to say that round three was a success from that perspective,” Annesley said during his weekly briefing on Monday.
“(But) one weekend doesn’t make a season.
“So we have to go back and when we go back to playing the coming rounds, we need to make sure that these sorts of improvements continue.”
Annesley also revealed 53 six-again rulings were made by referees over the weekend, an increase in average play-the-ball infringements.
But he said the referees were able to make those calls without having to stop play, or, even better, award a penalty at a crucial juncture of the match.
“One of the benefits of this rule is that the referees don’t feel under the same pressure to award penalties or not award penalties,” Annesley said.
“Particularly in important parts of the field and important parts of the game where the awarding of a penalty may have an impact on the outcome.”
Annesley also said referees followed through on threats to sin-bin offenders who were willing to wear a six-again call at certain periods in the match.
Manly hooker Danny Levi was marched close to fulltime in their win over Canterbury after blatantly laying in the ruck close to the Bulldogs’ tryline.
“If they’d only been a point in front, that situation would allow the penalty kick for goal because they clearly had no intention of getting off the ball carrier,” Annesley said.
“The scoreline didn’t matter in the overall context of the game.
“But the referee has to have the option to sum up the situation and make sure the attacking team isn’t disadvantaged by the unfair play of the defending team.”
Play-the-ball speeds were only reduced by a fifth of a second, while successful captain’s challenges went up by 20 per cent.