Calls for tweak to new 18th man rule
NRL head of football Graham Annesley concedes it’s a “fine line” for time-pressured referees to activate the 18th man rule following two controversial incidents on the weekend.
Annesley’s admission comes after Newcastle backrower Tyson Frizell was placed on report before later escaping a charge for a high tackle on Gold Coast winger Phillip Sami, who left the field for a HIA in the opening minutes and failed to return.
However, because Frizell wasn’t sent to the sin bin for the incident, the Titans were unable to replace Sami with their 18th man.
Earlier in the week, the NRL signed off on the new rule that would allow a club to replace an injured player if they had three HIAs in one match or if a player was injured because of foul play.
However, one concern with the rule was that a player could only be replaced under the foul play condition if the offending player were either sent to the bin or sent off.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook urged the NRL to change their 18th man rule after an incident involving Sami early in their clash with Newcastle last Saturday.
Annesley (pictured) understands Holbrook’s frustrations but believes Frizell not being charged justifies the rules around the 18th man.
“In some ways, the fact there was no charge in the Sami incident backs that up,” Annesley said. “If the Titans had the opportunity to put on an 18th player and it is ultimately found that Frizell did not commit an offence, that is an issue in itself. The reason why players have to be sent to the sin bin or off the field to activate the 18th player rule is because it has to be a relatively serious incident.”
However, Annesley admits it is difficult for officials to make decisions under tight time frames in a match.
“Between the referee and the bunker, they have to form a view that there was no foul play very quickly,” he said.