It cannot be allowed to go on anymore. And no, this has nothing to do with Sonny Bill Williams. On one issue in the game, I find myself actually agreeing with Phil Gould; the NRL’s stripping rules need to be overhauled ASAP. The current interpretations of these rules are anyone’s guess. Having eight different referees and video referees every week with differing viewpoints on what a strip is, certainly can’t be helping. But that can’t be helped because of the rules themselves. It’s at the point where defenders are getting penalised by some of these video refs when they have accidentally knocked the ball out in the tackle. That is farcical. The policing of the stripping rules has disintegrated into a confusing mess for not just officials, but fans, players, and coaches. It’s a no-win situation when defending players are penalised if their hands are in contact with the ball at the moment when the opponent loses control, but if they don’t wrap up the ball, the attacking player can offload. Who came up with this ridiculous rule anyway? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It was unwelcome to start with and now the grey area keeps widening.
The simple solution is to abolish the current stripping laws and put the onus back on the attacking player in the tackle. There is no reason why players shouldn’t be allowed to rake the ball in the tackle whether there be one or five tacklers. In the ruck, i.e. after the tackle is completed, “held” is called, and when the player is in the act of playing the ball, then there could be a strict hands-off policy on the defenders. This would not only ease confusion for players and referees but it would help to clean up the ruck area. At a time when many are bemoaning the fact that teams are controlling the game by controlling the speed of the ruck, surely a hands-off rule when the ball carrier is playing it will alleviate some of the problems. Teams would still need wrestling coaches unfortunately as the time a defender is allowed in the tackle is dependent upon whether the tackle is “dominant” or a “surrender”. The time allowed by these calls should not be permitted to extend after the “held” call as happens at present. In the tackle, it’s game on. The tackled player must protect the football and the defenders are given the appropriate amount of time to work the tackled player. When “held” is called, all hands, feet, and torsos need to be out of the play the ball area immediately (I’m pretty sure that was the original intention of the “held” call). This would also see an end to the overly harsh penalties against players not getting to their feet properly to play the ball when they have a defender all over them.
The lawmakers of the NRL need to bite the bullet on this for the betterment of Rugby League in this country, or if for nothing else, then for common sense.
NRL Fans Against Stupid Stripping Rules (NRLFASSR) throughout Australia.