Rule changes introduced for the new NRL season have officially made the greatest game of all greater.
Refereeing decisions are quicker, scrums and drop outs are faster and fans are seeing more of the ball in play so far this season, according to round one statistics released by the game’s governing body on Tuesday.
The NRL moved to make the game more attractive in 2016, introducing a shot clock for scrums and drop outs, bringing in the bunker for faster and more accurate decision-making and reducing interchanges.
And while it is very early days, the signs are good.
Compared to the season 2015 average, round one this year saw:
– Video referee decision times down 30 per cent;
– Scrum-packing and drop-out times down;
– Fans enjoying more than an extra minute and a half of ball in play.
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg welcomed the results as a boost for rugby league.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
“We were pleased with the outcomes from the first round, although obviously it is still early days and we are under no illusions about the fact that there is a long way to go before we can claim the changes have been successful.”
The NRL bunker, or central command centre, has been widely welcomed as a great initiative by rugby league fans, players and officials.
Greenberg said it would only likely continue to make rugby league better.
“In terms of the bunker, we are all still getting used to the technology but it was certainly pleasing to see the decision times decrease as well as ball-in-play time increase,” Greenberg said.
“Equally importantly, it was pleasing to see the process of decisions being explained to our supporters in real time.”
The number of average interchanges has also dropped in accordance with the new rule, from the season-average of 9.8 last year to 7.9 in round one 2016.
HOW RULE CHANGES HAVE IMPACTED THE NRL AFTER THE FIRST ROUND IN 2016
* Video referral decision time: down an average of 22 seconds from a 2015 average of 77 seconds to a round one, 2015 average of 55 seconds.
* Scrum times: Down an average of 13.5s from 43s last year to 29.5s in round one, 2015
*Drop out times: Down on average 10.6s from 37s last year to 26.4s this year
* Ball-in-play time: Up 1 minute 34s from 52m 45s to 54m 19s
* Number of video referrals per game: 2 percentage point increase from 2015 average of 44 to 2016 R1 average of 46
* Elapsed game time: 1m 39s less, down from 91m 18s last year to 89m 39s this year
* No. of interchanges per team: fallen 1.9 on average from 9.8 to 7.9 per team per game.