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Received wisdom

Changing kick off rules will benefit whole game, says Phil

Phil Clarke Posted 25th April 2012 view comments

I've tried unsuccessfully to ban myself from suggesting rule changes to our sport - we seem to do it more often than most other major team games - but I feel it is appropriate to put one proposal forward this week.

It might be as a result of the one-sided games I've watched from Round 12 in the Stobart Super League but I also think that it is equally (and maybe more importantly) relevant at all other levels of rugby league.

Chase should have received a longer ban, says Phil

Chase should have received a longer ban, says Phil

It's vital that we consider every level when we debate issues such as rule changes and I'm only throwing this idea up for debate. I'm going to ask Rod Studd to consider it for his Back Chat show and see what other people think.

Unlike most other team sports, the team that has conceded a try in rugby league are forced to kick off to the team that have just celebrated a try (or penalty goal). This is now accepted as the norm as it's happened for so long but I want you to consider whether or not the team that has scored should kick off to the team who've just conceded points.


Let me give you some examples of why I think that this could help our game.

The vast majority of penalties go to the team in possession. They get more possession. When they score a try they get possession again. The cycle continues.

Phil Clarke
Quotes of the week

Last Friday at Langtree Park the Saints were running hot. They got their hands on the ball and didn't let go. Here are some of the scoring sequences.

St Helens

Penalty - penalty - try - repeat set - try

Penalty - try - penalty - repeat set - try

Try - try - repeat set - try

The vast majority of penalties go to the team in possession. They get more possession. When they score a try they get possession again. The cycle continues.

Obviously in the above example, St Helens were good enough to get a repeated set of possession. Sometimes this is through the skill of forcing a goal line drop out, but on other occasions it's because a defender's hand has knocked down the ball and the referee starts the tackle count again.

The above example isn't unique. It happened three times in the game played between Warrington and Castleford last weekend. All the Tigers could do is KICK OFF and try their best to get their hands on the ball.

I wonder if it would be better for the scoring team to kick off. Would it prevent the one-sided games that we saw at St Helens and Warrington?

Before you say that we've tried this before, I know. It was in the late 90s at the start of the Super League era.

I think that we ran with it for a season before switching back to what we have today. I believe it was introduced to prevent the runaway scores, but it back-fired.

The stronger teams would kick off and smash their opponents with such aggressive defence that they'd drop the ball close to their own tryline and concede another try.


There are some interesting questions here.

Do we want to allow the team that has just conceded to score next, like they do in football or basketball, or is that penalising a team for scoring by taking the ball off them?

I began this article with the aim of finding a way of making the game fairer and preventing the runaway scores which don't allow for the tension or excitement of a close game, a game which goes into the last minute with the winner still to be decided.

However, I am aware that one of the greatest games of this season so far was when the Catalan Dragons came back to win at St Helens.

The fact that a scoring team can get onto a roll is favoured by the fact that they get the ball back after they've scored. Does the current rule help or hinder the game?

I mentioned earlier that we need to think of the whole game when we talk about changing the rules. From what I've seen, you very rarely see a Catalan-style comeback in an Under 12s match. There are some one-sided games which are a procession of tries.

I hate how often we change the rules in Rugby League, but think this one needs to be considered.

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Phil, despite what you say about the RFL disciplinary panel, the fact that Rangi Chase only got three matches for a reckless elbow to the head is plain wrong and he should have a longer ban. Ropati now faces approx 10 weeks out for a fractured cheekbone; where is the justice in that? Also what's stopping the video referee reviewing this during the game and him being sent from the field? Martin Lee

PHIL REPLIES: I will begin by agreeing with a point that you make. In my opinion, Rangi Chase deserved to be suspended for more than three matches. If you are found guilty of making contact, like he did, with an opponent's head then you should be suspended for a minimum of four to six weeks, and possibly more like six to 10 weeks.

The article that I wrote last week was not about the Rangi Chase case. It was about the procedures that we have in place in the game of Rugby League. I tried to outline the process that takes place from the end of the match at the weekend, through to the appeal on a Wednesday night.

I believe, with the resources available, that we have a fast and fair disciplinary procedure. I did not say that they always get it right.

I occasionally read about cases in which a person is given a relatively short prison sentence when they've killed somebody else. You could ask 'where is the justice in that?' The whole point about finding justice is to have independent people making the judgement. Again, I believe that we have that in Rugby League.

There is perhaps a group of conspiracy theorists out there who think that the clubs in the Stobart Super League are treated more leniently than those in the Co-Operative Championship. Again, I don't agree with this. I've met some of the people who work on the Operational Rules Tribunal and know that they have the 'good of the game' at heart, whatever level it's played at.

I would challenge anyone out there to show me a sport in the UK or Europe that has a similar degree of contacts/collisions and has a better system of dealing with illegal or foul play. When you consider how quickly we deal with cases in comparison to Premier League Football, I think that you'd have to agree that we're doing very well.

To conclude, I think that Rangi Chase deserved a longer ban but others would disagree with me and we have to accept what's been decided.

Comments (5)

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David Lea says...

Hi Phil, im sure we tried kicking off to the team that had been scored against either pre or early Super League didnt we? Not sure why it went back to how it is now but im sure it only lasted 1 season. A change i would like see is the benefit of the doubt. Personally i think if there is any doubt then it should be no try and award the defensive team instead. I would also like to axe the ref cop out "on report" im pretty sure a team can still cite a player they think committed foul play even if not penalised by the ref( they used to be able to ) and if this is the case then what is the point of on report .

Posted 11:21 30th April 2012

Chris Harper says...

Your piece "Received wisdom" was interesting. I agree with your premise that it would be good in some ways to interrupt the momentum that one side has by somehow giving an advantage to the other side after a try or penalty is scored. I don't think though that changing who receives the ball will necessarilly do that. I hate it when my side opts to take two points because I worry that we will forfeit so much territory and make a mistake under our posts allowing the opposition to score 4 or 6 points more than wiping out the penalty. Most other sports that kick off after a score get the ball or puck or whatever on the halfway line and are allowed to use it themselves. The two options you mention involve either ceding possession or ceding territory. Why not make it a tap start on the halfway line for the side scored against? Maybe for a penalty goal you make it a tap restart on the 40? Allowing the team under the cosh possession and territory is the only way to truly interrupt that momentum. Of course some will say that you should reward success and the way to get a more level competition is to improve the quality and depth in our game rather than installing artificial devices to make it look more level , ie , papering over the cracks , which I fear is often what the RFL have been about. Regards ChrisH

Posted 09:31 29th April 2012

Dave Williams says...

Taken from Phil's article; I would challenge anyone out there to show me a sport in the UK or Europe that has a similar degree of contacts/collisions and has a better system of dealing with illegal or foul play Well Phil what about Rugby Union? Their refs/match officials have no hesitation in either sin binning or sending off players for dangerous/other foul play during the game.The on report system in RL is just a blatant cop out for the ref to avoid either sin bin or sending off.Also by the offending player still being on the pitch there is no advantage to the offended against side. If the refs were more rigid then the need for the review panel would be lessened. I would also cut out all the chat between players and officials refs would refer to the sides colours,again like RU,no first names etc.Finally I would get rid of the rule whereby if a player misses a penalty kick at goal his side receives the ball again.Two bites of the cherry in effect,should be 20 metre re-start . Rant over,but refs must be more consistent than at present. One last thing Phil. Why can't WE have a You're on Sky Sports for Rugby League like the Footy fans do?

Posted 16:44 28th April 2012

Andrew Cudbertson says...

Phil ¿ I understand the arguments for reversing the kick off after a try but I am not so sure. Having been to the recent Wigan v NW Crusaders match ¿ and supporting the Crusaders - I feel sure that with a rule change each Wigan try would have led to a deep kick off and the Crusaders being pinned near their own line. Given their struggle to make ground except for penalties the game would have been almost entirely played in those final 20 metres. We would not have seen the spectacular long distance breaks and tries - which the home fans loved ¿ just a succession of dullish short distance tries. There is always the option of a shallow kick off and Crusaders did try that variation. From the terraces I am sure we got a better spectacle with the current rule and I suspect no more painful for the visiting fans than if the restarts had been reversed. Also some incredibly exciting finishes have occurred when a team 6 to 12 points behind scores with two minutes to go knowing they can have one more shot. Witness two of South Sydney¿s NRL matches this season. I remember the 90s experiment you mentioned. Do you recall how the fans hated not being able to cheer the scoring team back to their (spread-out) positions after a try? So from a spectators point of view I believe on balance we are better off as now. But what do the players think? I am sure they get more exhausted with the relentless tackling after repeat tries and are more prone to being penalised for minor offences like not standing square. On the other hand for a team trying to get back into the game it¿s great to have the ball back straight away to continue the fight back. I agree nobody welcomes blow out scores and yes it would be worrying if it drove amateur players away from the sport. So it¿s worth a debate but we need to think through the consequences very carefully. Personally I would leave it alone.

Posted 08:14 27th April 2012

Trevor Fuller says...

Hi Phil, I can only agree with your comments regarding the current procedures regulating restarts (After tries or penalties), that the conceding team is more or less immediately compelled to kick away vital possession back to the scoring side, thereby also the initiative back to them as well. The result of which more often as not (& backed up now by your statistics shown) usually results in runaway & lop-sided scores occurring in all too many in games! I have also for a long time been of a likeminded opinion on this matter, & I have also written to you in this column about this same subject on more than one occasion previously, to express my thoughts here. I'll now reiterate these & state that the conceding team at a restart after they have had either tries, penalties or field goals scored against them should immediately restart the game with a 'tap-kick' & pass to their own player from the centre of the playing-field, such as is the case in football & other similar sports. This should importantly, better-ensure good positioning & their ball-retention in the first set of six tackles immediately thereafter & allow the conceding team a better & more even chance of springing back into a game after suffering points scored against them. This should then make for a closer & more interesting game & spectacle to play & to watch!

Posted 06:06 27th April 2012

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