The NRL today announced a review of the interchange rules aimed at making the game safer and more exciting.
The review, to be done in consultation with State Leagues, the CRL, RLPA and UK Super League, will consider both the number of interchanges and the composition of the bench.
Head of Football Todd Greenberg said the review would be conducted by an expert committee headed by Dr Kevin Norton, a Professor of Exercise Science in the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia.
Dr Norton has conducted extensive research on injury development and fitness conditioning in other sports, including the AFL.
Mr Greenberg said rugby league had changed significantly since the interchange was reduced from 12 to 10 replacements in 2008.
He said players had generally increased in size, there were bigger collisions and the game was more structured.
“Players also get more breaks during a game because of the increased use of technology, particularly video referee decisions,” Mr Greenberg said.
“So we want to ensure that the game continues to evolve and is exciting and expansive – so we give fans the best possible spectacle.
“One way of doing this may be through a consideration of the interchange process and composition of the bench and that’s why we are reviewing the rules.”
Mr Greenberg said one of the advantages of a reduced interchange could be fewer heavy collisions involving fresh players – and this could ultimately improve player safety.
“In particular, it may reduce the risk of injuries to the head, neck and spinal column from big collisions,” he said.
“It could also ensure teams place greater emphasis on skills, rather than power and size.”
Mr Greenberg said the review would be conducted over the next two months.
A draft proposal would then be developed for consultation with coaches, clubs, the Rugby League Players Association, State Leagues for tier 2 competitions, Super League and other stakeholders.
“The review will look at all types of options – including the composition of the bench and the opportunity to consider both interchange and substitute players,” Mr Greenberg said.
It is anticipated that a recommendation will be made to the ARL Commission mid-year so that any changes can be introduced in time for the elite 2016 competitions.