James MacSmith, AAP
Endemic time wasting which robbed the game of more than 400 minutes of action last year forced the NRL to make crucial rule changes this season, the game's governing body has revealed.
The NRL has implemented a number of rule changes ahead of the start of the new season next week, including reducing the amount of scrums and limiting the times at which captains can question referee's decisions.
The tinkering has copped criticism from some as change for change's sake.
But NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg revealed on Thursday fans were robbed of an average two minutes per game of action or 'ball in play' time per game in 2013 on the year before.
That adds up to an incredible 404 minutes or more than five games of action that fans were denied by time-wasting tactics.
"What we have done is to try to find some small measures to continue ball in play," Greenberg said.
"It's not about making the game faster, we are happy with the speed of the game.
"It is about more ball in play time.
"To provide fans what they want to watch which is an ongoing innovative product.
"We want to continue to make the game the best spectacle it can be.
"We spoke to a lot of people about these rule changes, every club, the RLPA , state leagues, all of the coaches, a number of players, broadcasters and we analysed a lot of data."
According to NRL data, time with the ball spent in the field of play per game in 2013 averaged 50 minutes and 14 seconds.
That was down a whopping two minutes and three seconds from the season's before average of 52 minutes and 17 seconds per game.
In 2011, that average was 52 minutes 25 seconds per game. In 2010, it was 53 minutes and 10 seconds.
Greenberg said it was necessary to halt an alarming trend.
"If we didn't make these changes it could have resulted in more time wasted," he said.
"One of the great strengths of rugby league is its ability to innovate.
"We want the game to continue to thrive and I think that is what will happen as a result of these changes."