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NRL Introduce 18th Player Rule For Concussion Injuries

T
he Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has announced the introduction of a new rule allowing NRL clubs to activate an 18th player after three players fail a head injury assessment (HIA) or when a play suffers a match ending injury caused by foul play.

The decision comes after the ARLC provided an in-principle approval to the rule pending consultation from all clubs and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA).

ARLC chairman, Peter V’landys, said the decision will provide a safety net for clubs and players to ensure teams are not disadvantaged from losing a player during a match due to foul play or multiple HIAs.

“Player wellbeing is a priority for the Commission and this additional safety net ensures players continue to be protected,” V’landys said.

“Our clubs are outstanding in the way they detect and monitor head injuries and the activation of an 18th player in rare cases of three failed HIAs during a game will ensure continued strict compliance throughout a match.

“We’ve also approved an 18th player to be activated when a player suffers a match ending injury because of foul play where the perpetrator is sin binned or sent off.

“Why should a team be disadvantage by an act of serious foul play?

“This was a strong message from all clubs and fans and the Commission has listened to that feedback.

“We’ve also listened to clubs and players about the criteria of the 18th player used and will allow the club to select any of its registered players which will enable the most effective team combination on game day.

“I want to thank all clubs and the RLPA for their feedback,” he said.

In a statement, the NRL confirmed the rule will be monitored by the ARLC and further adjusted as needed.

Speaking to Fox Sports, former NRL and AFL player, Karmichael Hunt, said the NRL could better protect players by introducing stricter rules for head contact and high tackles, comparing the harsher rules in place by World Rugby.

“If we’re looking at it from a rewards and punishment perspective, sending players to the sin bin on the spot for high shots will have an effect I believe,” Hunt said, discussing how one in 49 head high tackles in the NRL saw the offender sent to the sin bin in 2020.

“Definitely from a law of the game perspective it’s quite black and white in rugby and any bit of head high contact, you’re putting yourself at risk of getting a yellow or red or copping some punishment from the tribunal.

“The flip side of it is there are moments where they’re over analysed and they kill the flow and momentum of the game.

“But they’ve definitely put a stake in the ground and are definitely conscious of the severity of head injuries…

“We play footy because we love the game, but when you start hearing stories and incidents like Shane Tuck or all that’s happening over in the NFL, different games mind you, but it’s unknown.

“I’ve had many head knocks.

“The unknown nature of concussion is what makes it a talking point.

“You do an ACL, you can get surgery and rehab it back, but CTE and brain injuries are unknown,” he said.