While there’s been a raft of rule changes in 2020/21 (some might say it’s been change for the sake of it), there’s only one main change for 2022, and it’s a biggie.
The controversial Six Again rule – which has seen the game increase in speed – has been given a much-needed overhaul:
Penalties will be awarded instead of set restarts (six again) for ruck or 10m infringements inside the 40m zone of the team in possession. This will provide an additional deterrence to defending teams who are willing to concede set restarts to gain a tactical advantage. It will also provide more opportunities for teams receiving the penalty to attack from a better field position.
This will hopefully have a two-fold impact: A) stop defending teams giving away cynical Six Again penalties with the opposition coming out of their own end, knowing that a few extra tackles won’t hurt them, and B) finally slow the game down. The ridiculous speed of “V’landysball” has seen a massive gulf appear between the best and worst, as well as an increase in blowout scores: in 2020, the average winning margin between top eight and bottom eight teams was about 17 points; that blew out to just under 20 in 2021, and 25 between top eight teams in 2021. The competition seemed to separate into thirds: the top five (who were a cut above in quality); teams six to 10 (who were either hanging on to a finals spot or struggling to squeeze in, often with a negative win-loss record); and the bottom six. The smart teams have found the loophole in the rule and exploited it, realising that the Six Again is only effective beyond the halfway line. Ideally the rule change will eliminate the cynical penalties and ensure any Six Again’s conceded will have an impact.
The other changes come under “Game Day Policy Amendments”:
Team List Announcements
The Tuesday team announcements will increase to 22 to accommodate the 18th Player.
A free interchange will only apply for foul play when the offending player is sin-binned/sent off.
Only a referee, touch judge or The Bunker will be permitted to stop play for an injury (except for head injuries, when trainers can stop play). This is arguably a reaction to the controversial Penrith v Parramatta semi-final, when Penrith trainer Pete Green was suspended after he stopped play to attend to hooker Mitch Kenny in the 76th minute of the semi-final.