Players will risk being sent to the sin bin if they slap an opponent from this weekend.
The NRL Competition Committee said today the recent trend of players slapping others, following the banning of the punch, was a poor look for the game.
As a result, referees will be encouraged to use the sin bin for open-handed slaps to the face.
“Slapping is not a good look for the game and I support any efforts to ensure that it is not a part of Rugby League,” Sydney Roosters Coach Trent Robinson said.
“The game has worked hard for a long time on its image for all people, but particularly for children and mothers, and this sends the right message to them.”
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire said the sin bin would be an effective way of deterring open-handed slapping.
“We have seen instances of punching reduce significantly and we hope to now see a similar trend with slapping," Mr Maguire said.
Today’s meeting included Robinson, Maguire, Kangaroos Coach Mal Meninga, ARLC Chairman John Grant, Commissioner Wayne Pearce, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, NRL Head of Football Brian Canavan, RLPA General Manager – Player Relations Clint Newton, former Jillaroos Captain Karyn Murphy, as well as Greg Inglis (alternate for Kangaroos Captain Cameron Smith).
Mr Canavan said players, coaches and officials were embarrassed by slapping incidents.
“Slapping may not always hurt physically but it is a poor look for the game and a bad example to juniors,” he said.
“Referees will now be empowered to deal with slapping incidents as they would with punches – by using the sin bin.”
Based on the current Laws and Interpretations, the Bunker can intervene in instances where a player should be sent to the sin bin.
The committee also recommended:
- The current process around concussion and Head Injury Assessments should remain while further analysis is undertaken on the issue;
- Not to introduce an 18th man to replace players forced out of a game through a head injury, although the game will continue to review interchange procedures;
- The NRL Medical Advisory Panel should make any recommendation on whether independent doctors should be used for head injury incidents.
The Committee discussed player workload and balance as well as the continuing game trends following the reduction to eight interchanges.
The Committee was also given an update on the offside line technology and the Women’s Rugby League working group.
During a State of the Game update, the Committee was told that after five rounds:
- Average video referral (Bunker) decision times were tracking 8 percent faster than 2016 (59 seconds on average in 2017 compared to 64 seconds in 2016), while referral rates were significantly down on 2016 (2.80 per game in 2017, compared to 3.53 in 2016);
- Average game margins were tracking to be the closest since 2011, while the percentage of games decided by 6 points or less was up from 34% in 2016 to 38% in 2017.