After Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell highlighted the increase in players winning penalties by dishonest means in ruck areas the Rugby League have moved to issue an immediate change to refereeing policy at games in 2019.
Powell has been angered by what he described as “cheating” to win penalties by throwing the ball at opposition players when they have got on the wrong side of the ruck after making tackles.
Several incidents of this nature won Catalans Dragons penalties in Monday’s game against Castleford and Powell admitted his team had resorted to the same tactic in response.
He revealed he had spoken to Steve Ganson, the RFL’s head of match officials, and following further consultation within the refereeing ranks a quick response has been issued with moves to clean the game up.
Before the amendments to the referee policy were announced Powell told the Express: “It’s just annoying at the moment.
“I’ve had a word with Steve Ganson and the way it’s going at the moment it’s just so untidy and there’s that much happening.
“I’ve just had enough of it to be honest - something has got to be done.
“We’re going with it because we’re getting penalties given against us consistently and we’re getting nothing back because we’re just too clean.
“There’s got to be a change in the rules or the application of the rules because the way the game looks is poor. It’s poor for the sport and it puts our game in a bad light, with the amount of cheating there is.”
Powell explained what he believes has been going on: “If you lose contact you end up on the wrong side of the ruck and there’s a few different things that are happening. Either the ball’s being played ridiculously hard to play into the player who’s trying to get away from the ruck or they are placing the ball down on top of the player - or even at times standing over the player to put the ball down. You can’t move off the mark.
“We had one incident on Monday because we’ve had enough of it.
“There are always going to be some of those penalties, but teams and players are just going for it too often to win a penalty.
“There were 25 penalties in the game (at Catalans) and that’s ridiculous - nobody wants to see that.
“Something’s got to change and we’ve deliberately gone after it because it can’t keep happening like this.
“If you are a clean team - and we try to be honest and clean in the way we play the game - you are losing out and that can’t happen either.”
The following amendments to 2019 referee policy have now been introduced with immediate effect:
Placing the ball on the defender lying on the ground – It is the responsibility of the player playing the ball to place the ball on the ground at their feet. If necessary the player should step backwards to ensure this can be done. OUTCOME – If the ball is placed on the tackler, this will be ruled a knock-on.
Moving off the mark / stepping over to deliberately place the defender in the ruck - It is the responsibility of the player playing the ball to place the ball on the ground at their feet, and not to advance off the mark - if necessary the player should step backwards. OUTCOME – The player in possession will be penalised for moving off the mark if deliberately stepping over a defender to place them in the ruck.
Playing the ball into a defender in the ruck – The player playing the ball should maintain balance and control when heeling the ball to the acting half-back. OUTCOME - In this situation the player in the ruck will be penalised if hit by the ball - or if in the opinion of the referee the half-back is prevented from picking the ball up. EXCEPTION – A penalty will be awarded against the player playing the ball if the ball is forcibly heeled back with the intention of contacting the defending player with the ball.
Passing into an opposing player – Any ball passed into an opposing player in and around the ruck, in any direction, will be deemed to be acting against the spirit of the game. OUTCOME - The passer will be immediately penalised.
Head of match officials Ganson explained: “A number of high-profile incidents during and before the Easter weekend have shown certain teams or players acting contrary to the spirit of the game, in a manner that has infuriated fellow professionals, broadcasters and, crucially, supporters.
“After internal consultation, we have therefore decided to make these changes to referee policy with immediate effect, applying throughout the game. This is an unusual step, but not unprecedented – and we hope it will be welcomed by coaches, players and supporters.
“There is a meeting of head coaches next week, followed by the regular meeting of the RFL Laws Committee, at which these matters will be discussed, along with the situation regarding obstruction which has also been provoking a lot of discussion.”