Written by Callum Walker
As the lockdown continues to wind down around the world, Rugby League in Australia is back up and running, and, with a bang.
Parramatta and Brisbane restarted the season on Thursday evening, as the Eels ran out 34-6 winners. But, rather than the result doing the talking – which was indeed an emphatic victory for Parramatta – it was the atmosphere and surroundings which got people excited about the prospect of Rugby League being back on our screens.
Games have been played behind closed doors, but other than zoomed-out shots, no one would have guessed. Whereas in the recently-resumed Bundesliga, there was no noise at all, the NRL have brought in virtual crowd noise. It is an interesting concept, but one that certainly earned the plaudits of viewers and rightly so. It provided a much more enhanced atmosphere and gave the players at least some sort of crowd feel to play off.
The chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, Peter V’landys, has been credited with much of the praise for the way he and the NRL have handled the crisis and he was hailed even further with the the rule change put in place before this weekend’s fixtures.
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) May 30, 2020
That rule change saw the number of referees reduced to one from two and gave the remaining man-in-the-middle the power to award another six tackles rather than a penalty to an attacking side that the referee feels has been infringed at the play-the-ball area. Unsurprisingly, that has led to a much quicker ruck area, providing a massive impetus for defending teams to get out of a tackle and back to the defensive line.
Whilst the loss of a referee could mean teams get away with more, that potentially extra defensive duty could be enough to deter sides from trying their best to slow the opposition down. Of course, there is the question of what happens if a side needs two points to draw or win and instead get another set and fail to score, but that kind of situation is likely to be addressed in the near future.
V’landys, the NRL and ARLC have been incredibly pro-active in trying to achieve the best possible outcome to the current crisis. And, if the first weekend is anything to go by, they have achieved just that.