The NRL’s reduced interchange has had an immediate impact on the new season, with Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett making just two unforced substitutes in the first half of his season opener.
An injury to Jordan Kahu midway through the first half meant the supercoach had to burn an early interchange card in the opening 40 minutes of their 17-4 win over Parramatta.
But only two more changes were made before the break.
An interested onlooker, South Sydney coach Michael Maguire said the impact was evident on an Eels unit that was forced to do plenty of defending in the early stages of the match.
“I saw at times throughout the game there, you’ve got a lot of your forwards that have got to stay out there longer,” Maguire said ahead of his round one clash against the Sydney Roosters on Sunday.
“One of the teams there only made two interchanges in the first half, so that’s going to play its part for certain players and you could see that the outside backs of the Broncos came into the game at times.
“Those sorts of things are going to play a part as we go into the season.”
First half injuries to both Parramatta’s five-eighth Corey Norman and Kahu meant both coaches had to use one of their eight interchanges unexpectedly.
And the result was a combined 18 errors in the second half, almost double the total of the first half.
“We saw what (impact) it had, particularly when there’s a forced change. We lost Jordy Kahu there and had to be push (Alex Glenn) out into the centres and cover that way,” Broncos captain Corey Parker said.
“For our side in particular, we had the players and the dynamic that we can cover that. But when there is a forced change, it does throw a curveball at times.”
The Eels’ curveball had a lot more sting to it, forced to play second-rower Kenny Edwards at the critical second-receiver position in place of the injured Norman.
“It had an impact on us losing a half at halftime and putting a second rower out there, so it did affect us in terms of our tackles,” Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said.
“I thought we looked a little bit all over the shop with our attack and panicked a little bit and when we poked our nose through the line we were trying to force offloads.”
The NRL’s highly-anticipated refereeing bunker also debuted without a hitch, called on twice for tryscoring decisions and swiftly making the correct decision.