This afternoon The Australian Rugby League Commission approved, in principle, for NRL clubs to integrate an 18th man onto the bench. The condition, however, would be that a team must suffer three failed Head Injury Assessments (HIA) and the 18th man must be an emerging player.
The rule integration comes after a glaring 20 injuries were suffered during round three of the premiership – eight of which were concussions.
With great speculation as to whether the new rules, which were introduced to increase the speed of the game, are a contributing factor to the increase in injuries the ARLC were feeling the pressure to act and act quickly.
The new rule, which will take effect from round five, will only allow for an emerging player on a rotating roster to be selected. However, the definition of an emerging player is still being clarified.
ARLC Charman Peter V’Landys spoke out on the change.
“This is a dynamic environment. As a Commission we have always said we would be agile in changing rules when it is in the best interests of the game and this is one of those examples.” He said.
Beloved commentator and rugby league figurehead Andrew Voss objected this claim.
“It’s sad because it seems to be me we are trying to find a solution here that isn’t motivated by greater welfare for the players, or greater good for the game, but is instead put in place because we have to make it the least possible tweak that could be exploited by the coaches.
In a nutshell, we have no faith in bringing in a replacement player for the good of the game and player safety.” He exclaimed.
Fans of the game have spoken out in objection to the rule with a similar disappointment as Voss.
“It needs to be easier to get the 18th man in. If foul play is involved, then you should be able to bring the 18th man on. I think it should only be two failed HIAs, not three.” St George Illawarra Dragons fan, Tim Buecher stated.
“If two middle forwards go off with concussion, you are still going to have guys playing an obscene amount of minutes. Guys who are used to playing 40 to 50 minutes a game are now going to be more prone to injury as they fatigue,”
“This move seems to be made as a necessity to what we have seen over the past few weeks. But if the goal was to address player welfare then they have missed the mark.” Tim concluded.
Tim’s thoughts were backed up by others, including the man who goes by “Magic Milos FC’ who stated,
“I think three failed HIAs is too much to access it. Should be one or two, to be honest. AFL has it for just one concussion!”
Overall, while the effort can not be ignored, many believe that the cries for player welfare are falling on deaf ears.
This rule sees a Band-Aid added to a bullet wound.