The five greatest rule changes in Super League history

THROUGHOUT Super League’s 27-year history, there have been a number of rule changes introduced to improve the quality and safety of the sport.

Before the summer game began in 1996, for example, defenders were allowed to strike the ball at a ruck, but that was changed in 1996 as a way of making the sport easier on the eye.

But, which five rule changes have been the greatest in Super League?

1. No longer allowed to strike the ball at the ruck

Mentioned above, with the advent of the summer game came the rule change that defenders could no longer strike at the ball following a tackle. In an attempt to clean up the sport, organisers believed that such a rule made the game less appealing. Now, if this does indeed happen at the ruck, a penalty is given to the attacking team which often deters defenders from trying to force the ball out. In years gone by, the striking at the ruck often slowed the game down and brought with it more scrums than perhaps was necessary in a game.

2. The substitute expansion

In 2003, the substitute pool was increased to a group of four and the number of interchanges a team could make increased from 6 to 12. This allowed for coaches to experience with different combinations, but also made the game much more tactical in terms of coaches trying to get one over on their opposite number. A game might have been going one way, but a number of substitutions later and the momentum may have switched. Of course, the number of interchanges has since been reduced to 8, but this has certainly become a critical part of Super League.

3. Introducing the 40/20

The 40/20 rule was brought in back in 1999 in an attempt to promote creativity and uncertainty during a game. If an attacking player kicked the ball from within their own 40-metre line and it bounced out within the 20-metre mark, then a 40/20 was judged. This later was tweaked so that if the ball bounced in the 20-metre mark and then went out in the 10-metre mark, it was still head and feed to the attacking side. Many a tremendous kick has been observed since then with the skill of the 40/20 going down well with almost everyone involved in rugby league.

4. The ‘In Touch’ rule

Back in 2012, the governing body decided to take the corner flag out of play in terms of a player being in touch. In the act of scoring a try, no longer would a player be deemed in touch if he hits the corner flag. In doing so, since that moment there have been an incredible amount of brilliant tries being scored in the corners that would otherwise have been disallowed without that rule being there. The rule change has encouraged speculative efforts and enhanced the quality of the game and the finishing on show.

5. The ball steal rule

It had only been in place one season before it was shelved, but, in 2021, the governing body made it so a ball could only be stolen in a one-on-one tackle and not during a multi-person tackle where the additional tacklers have peeled off the tackle before the steal. Back in 2020, the rule had been changed allowing players to steal a ball from an opponent even if previous attackers had dropped off. However, most of the rugby league fraternity were thankful to see it scrapped.