NRL players who deliberately pass the ball at defenders in the ruck to draw a penalty will have the tables turned on them, under a new interpretation of the law effective immediately.
The NRL confirmed on Thursday they had launched a crackdown into the act of dummy-halves passing the ball into defenders, which had infuriated fans in recent weeks.
Under the new “spirit of the game” interpretation, referees will penalise any dummy-half who “deliberately passes the ball into a defending player caught in and around the ruck who is not actively taking part in the play”.
“What we have seen recently is a bad look for the game, and in simple terms, not in the spirit of the game,” NRL head of football Brian Canavan said.
“In these instances, if a player deliberately throws the ball into another, the referees will give a penalty to the opposition team.
“This does not absolve a defender of his responsibilities to clear the ruck and the defending team will still be penalised if it is deemed that they are interfering with play.”
After having first appeared to have snuck into the game during the 2015 State of Origin series when Cooper Cronk drew a penalty for Queensland, the tactic has gradually increased in recent years.
However it reached a farcical state last weekend, when Parramatta’s Will Smith almost spiked the ball into a defender NFL-style against the Warriors.
Brisbane’s Anthony Milford then blatantly repeated the dose hours later, prompting NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg to announce a crackdown earlier this week.
“What I saw over the weekend looked ridiculous to me – players purposely throwing the ball into a player lying in and around the ruck,” Greenberg said on Monday.
“If it happens deliberately, teams can expect a penalty.”
Meanwhile Canavan said referees would be instructed to give warnings for repeated infringements more efficiently as of this weekend.