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Number 16

An old RL rule

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I've been thumbing my way through copies of the late lamented Rothmans RL Yearbook and I came across a reference to an old rule that I'd never heard of before.

In 1958 the RFL introduced a rule whereby if the play-the-ball acting half-back was tackled in possession a scrum was conceded. This was a new one to me, though nowadays it's a Masters RL rule.

I wasn't even a twinkle in the late 50s so it was well before my time, but does anyone have any recollection of this rule and how long was it in place

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I watched the 1966 NSW Grand Final a few days ago, there was a reference to it by the commentator there. Limited tackles came in the following year, so I suspect it was made redundant by that soon enough.

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21 minutes ago, Number 16 said:

I've been thumbing my way through copies of the late lamented Rothmans RL Yearbook and I came across a reference to an old rule that I'd never heard of before.

In 1958 the RFL introduced a rule whereby if the play-the-ball acting half-back was tackled in possession a scrum was conceded. This was a new one to me, though nowadays it's a Masters RL rule.

I wasn't even a twinkle in the late 50s so it was well before my time, but does anyone have any recollection of this rule and how long was it in place

This was in the days of unlimited tackles and 5yd defensive lines. It was to prevent the dummy halfs from taking an interminable number of 1yd gains. It certainly ended with the introduction of the limited ( originally four) tackles rule, round about 1966 I believe.


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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They experimented with several different rules in "friendly" fixtures (even during the season and when teams were not bothered about doing so in case it compromised their league ambitions ... and their finances !)

Oldham and Leigh played in two such matches - although I don't know which rules were being experimented. One was on 3 April 1954 (even though Oldham then had league matches on the 8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 19 April (yes, six league games in 12 days !)  The other was on 8 October 1956 when yet again Oldham had matches on the 6th and 13th April ... and for both matches the two clubs played their best players and didn't resort to just using any reserves.

In the 1964-65 season there was an end-of-season "Bottom 14 Championship" (ie: The league was then one division of 30 clubs and the top 16 played-off for the League Championship). That tournament experimented with a scrum being formed after EVERY tackle. Huddersfield beat Doncaster in the final - but as well as the competition never being played again, neither was the rule adopted.

The former BBC2 Floodlit Trophy began in 1965 and it too was used to experiment with possible new rules. One of which was the use of substitutes, while it also introduced the four-tackle rule (since adopted and now changed to six tackles).

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An interesting if slightly irreverent reference book is "Rugby League in It's Own Words" by Tim Wilkinson and Ray Gent, published in 2004. Many of the changes to the sport are covered in an entertaining narrative format. It isn't necessarily completely authoritative but a good read.

Edited by Blind side johnny

Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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1 minute ago, Blind side johnny said:

An interesting if slightly irreverente reference book is "Rugby League in It's Own Words" by Tim Wilkinson and Ray Gent, published in 2004. Many of the changes to the sport are covered in an entertaining narrative format. It isn't necessarily completely authoritative but a good read.

"Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain" also has a section about how the rules of RL have evolved  (see Section 7 - Page 105)

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RweAAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=rugby+league+in+twentieth+century+britain&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjM9aqaxNboAhXHMMAKHRe7BNkQ6wEILTAA#v=onepage&q=rugby league in twentieth century britain&f=false

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2 minutes ago, RL does what Sky says said:

Yep, got that too. It is a more serious read though, I'm sure you would agree. Tony Collins has another book covering the modern game due to be released "shortly".

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Just now, craig hamilton said:

I used to like the fact that you could play the ball to yourself. Saw it in action during the BBC's Challenge Cup final programme at the weekend. Had forgotten about it.

And the opposing player could also strike for the ball. I believe that they were both made illegal at the same time. This actually goes back to the original concept of the PTB which was a one-man opposed scrum where the tackled player was supposed to drop the ball from around chest height and both players could strike for the ball.

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Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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1 minute ago, Blind side johnny said:

And the opposing player could also strike for the ball. I believe that they were both made illegal at the same time. This actually goes back to the original concept of the PTB which was a one-man opposed scrum where the tackled player was supposed to drop the ball from around chest height and both players could strike for the ball.

True... but, yet again, it didn't look good on tv for those watching in their armchair ! ?

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7 minutes ago, craig hamilton said:

I used to like the fact that you could play the ball to yourself. Saw it in action during the BBC's Challenge Cup final programme at the weekend. Had forgotten about it.

Yes ... and it made sure they had to play the ball with their foot - unlike now !

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8 minutes ago, craig hamilton said:

I used to like the fact that you could play the ball to yourself. Saw it in action during the BBC's Challenge Cup final programme at the weekend. Had forgotten about it.

They should bring that one back!

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1 hour ago, Number 16 said:

I've been thumbing my way through copies of the late lamented Rothmans RL Yearbook and I came across a reference to an old rule that I'd never heard of before.

In 1958 the RFL introduced a rule whereby if the play-the-ball acting half-back was tackled in possession a scrum was conceded. This was a new one to me, though nowadays it's a Masters RL rule.

I wasn't even a twinkle in the late 50s so it was well before my time, but does anyone have any recollection of this rule and how long was it in place

from laws of the game 

in 1961

in an effort to discourage incessant and purposeless runs by the dummy-halves, a rule was made that should the dummy-half be tackled after running with the ball there would be a scrum 

in 1963

The rule that a dummy-half caught with ball would result in a scrum was rescinded. Dummy-half runs were now unrestricted.

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24 minutes ago, POR said:

from laws of the game 

in 1961

in an effort to discourage incessant and purposeless runs by the dummy-halves, a rule was made that should the dummy-half be tackled after running with the ball there would be a scrum 

in 1963

The rule that a dummy-half caught with ball would result in a scrum was rescinded. Dummy-half runs were now unrestricted.

Of course that was when the unlimited tackle rule was in force and was to prevent the dummy-half just keeping hold of the ball from tackle to tackle - and thus I think the "new" rule was a good way to prevent that.

These days there might be good and bad about it ... It might allow more open play but also might stop any individualism by the acting-half-back.

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As long as they don't bring back Parramatta's "flying wedge" tactic... nostalgia can go too far!

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"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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1 minute ago, RL does what Sky says said:

One rule I thought was good but was abandoned after just one season (because the Australians didn't want it) was that the team who had scored any points kicked-off rather than the team who had conceded the points.

That has been changed more than once, I think. Each change would have had fans saying the old way was better, of course.

Edited by Futtocks
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"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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1 hour ago, craig hamilton said:

I used to like the fact that you could play the ball to yourself. Saw it in action during the BBC's Challenge Cup final programme at the weekend. Had forgotten about it.

The marker could strike as well.  I think that and the rule above are all part of the evolution of the original RU ruck pre 1895.

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There was an idea once - but never implemented - that the referee should put the ball into the scrum. The way the scrums are at the moment then that could well be something to look at again. At least the ball would go in the middle and the two scrum halves would already be at the base of the scrum to pick it up.

Furthermore, even if it returned to both hookers being allowed to strike for the ball then the referee could ensure their feet were not already too far forward before he put the ball in.

Not a rule but a tactic .... One Rugby Union aspect of the scrum which I can only ever recall seeing once in RL is when a team keeps the ball in the scrum at the loose-forward's feet and pushes forward. Such a tactic would also ensure the opposition don't breakaway from the scrum too early as they would be penalised for doing so before the ball has emerged.

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1 hour ago, RL does what Sky says said:

May have done but I can only remember it changing that once in the last 50 years.

In the UK, the kick off was switched to the scoring team part way through the short 1995/96 season in preparation for the new era of Super League the following year (the ban on the marker striking and the tackled player playing it to himself was done at the same time). In Australia it applied only in the Super League for the one year it actually ran in 1997. It never applied in the NRL the following year, and was reversed in the UK in 1999 as the rules were harmonised.

I really liked that one myself. In the modern game where possession is more key than position I thought it evened up things slightly, despite the concern over a team being pinned back in their own half permanently. I think we threw the baby out with the bathwater some there. Scoring team kicks off from their own 40M line could have been a good tweak.

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12 hours ago, Nomad XIII said:

In the UK, the kick off was switched to the scoring team part way through the short 1995/96 season in preparation for the new era of Super League the following year (the ban on the marker striking and the tackled player playing it to himself was done at the same time). In Australia it applied only in the Super League for the one year it actually ran in 1997. It never applied in the NRL the following year, and was reversed in the UK in 1999 as the rules were harmonised.

I really liked that one myself. In the modern game where possession is more key than position I thought it evened up things slightly, despite the concern over a team being pinned back in their own half permanently. I think we threw the baby out with the bathwater some there. Scoring team kicks off from their own 40M line could have been a good tweak.

I thought at the time the team scored against should’ve just had a tap on the halfway( that could be the 20 or 40 depending on how it was working. 

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21 hours ago, Blind side johnny said:

This was in the days of unlimited tackles and 5yd defensive lines. It was to prevent the dummy halfs from taking an interminable number of 1yd gains. It certainly ended with the introduction of the limited ( originally four) tackles rule, round about 1966 I believe.

Cheers. I guessed the reason for it. Strange to think that if the rule was still in place the game would be so different. As an example 'exit sets' wouldn't it be same and the role (and physique?) of wingers would change. 

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2 hours ago, Number 16 said:

Cheers. I guessed the reason for it. Strange to think that if the rule was still in place the game would be so different. As an example 'exit sets' wouldn't it be same and the role (and physique?) of wingers would change. 

Yes, however the same can be said for many rules couldn't it? The list is almost endless.


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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