I reckon 2020 will go down in history as one of the most remarkable rugby league seasons on record – and this year won’t be far behind...
Tickets for all matches at Suncorp Stadium, including Broncos’ home games, Magic Round on May 14-16 and Origin II on June 27, are now on sale, but anyone thinking that things will be ‘back to normal’ with the return of the crowds after last year’s COVID-affected season should think again.
Come Friday week, when Brisbane takes on Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium to kick-start the season, it will be a whole new ball game. Last year, with the introduction of the six-again rule to combat slowing down the play at the breakdown, we got a first glimpse of the NRL’s intention to speed up the game.
Many would say that was the start of the Broncos problems, with the club’s big forwards struggling to cope with the quicker pace and fewer halts in play. Well, if that was the case, they – and every other side with a giant pack – will have their work cut out this year as the NRL has taken the ‘quick game’s a good game’ mentality to the next level.
Added to the breakdown rule is six-more tackles for being inside the 10 metres, and a play-the-ball rather than a scrum when the ball is kicked or carried over the touchline. Club officials monitoring the effect of the new rules during the recent trial matches calculated that they contributed to the ball being in play around eight extra minutes per game.
That might not seem a great deal when you are sitting in the stands, but for a 110kg footballer throwing their body around in one of the toughest contact sports on earth, it’s an eternity.
Other changes include ensuring that the forwards stay bound in the scrum until the ball is out, and two points being awarded for a field goal kicked from outside 40 metres.
The aim, of course, is to open up the game and give the smaller players more time and space to put on the spectacular plays that the fans love to watch. Judging by what we saw in the trials I reckon the NRL is onto a winner.
What do YOU reckon?