The RFL and Super League have amended refereeing policies to help rid of “cheating” clouding the sport.
There have been several instances of players deliberately passing the ball into a player who is in an offside position. Other cases, such as forcefully playing the ball to ensure it hits a player and stepping over a defender in order to put them in the ruck area, has also been apparent.
After initially being clamped down several years ago, cases have shot up dramatically in recent weeks, most evidently in the Easter Monday game between Catalans and Castleford.
As a result, four key changes have been made to try and prevent the number of cases:
Placing the ball on the defender lying on the ground – It is the responsibility of the player playing the ball to place the ball on the ground at their feet. If necessary the player should step backwards to ensure this can be done. OUTCOME – If the ball is placed on the tackler, this will be ruled a knock-on.
Moving off the mark / stepping over to deliberately place the defender in the ruck – It is the responsibility of the player playing the ball to place the ball on the ground at their feet, and not to advance off the mark – if necessary the player should step backwards. OUTCOME – The player in possession will be penalised for moving off the mark if deliberately stepping over a defender to place them in the ruck.
Playing the ball into a defender in the ruck – The player playing the ball should maintain balance and control when heeling the ball to the acting half-back.OUTCOME – In this situation the player in the ruck will be penalised if hit by the ball – or if in the opinion of the referee the half-back is prevented from picking the ball up. EXCEPTION – A penalty will be awarded against the player playing the ball if the ball is forcibly heeled back with the intention of contacting the defending player with the ball.
Passing into an opposing player – Any ball passed into an opposing player in and around the ruck, in any direction, will be deemed to be acting against the spirit of the game. OUTCOME – The passer will be immediately penalised.
Steve Ganson, the RFL’s head of match officials, explained: “A number of high-profile incidents during and before the Easter weekend have shown certain teams or players acting contrary to the spirit of the game, in a manner that has infuriated fellow professionals, broadcasters and, crucially, supporters.
“After internal consultation, we have therefore decided to make these changes to referee policy with immediate effect, applying throughout the game.
“This is an unusual step, but not unprecedented – and we hope it will be welcomed by coaches, players and supporters.
“There is a meeting of head coaches next week, followed by the regular meeting of the RFL Laws Committee, at which these matters will be discussed, along with the situation regarding obstruction which has also been provoking a lot of discussion.”