Bennett warns against penalty fest

World All Stars coach Wayne Bennett has implored NRL officials not to over-officiate the new rule changes being implemented in Saturday's Harvey Normal All Stars game.  

Shot clocks will be introduced at scrums and dropouts, and teams will now be penalised for setting up a "wall" to prevent charge-downs on field goal attempts - but it is the crackdown on the play the ball that has Bennett most concerned. 

Referees have been encouraged to strictly police the play the ball and penalise those who fail to carry out the play the ball process correctly. 

Bennett has seen his fair share of rule changes over his 28 years of coaching in the NRL and although he agrees with the new ruling, he fears the game may turn into a stop-start penalty fest if the officials start to police the rule too harshly.  

The 66-year-old believes the rule will work as long as it doesn't become the main focus of the game. 

"There's a play the ball problem in the game and players have been allowed to get away with it for too long so I'm pleased that the referees want players to get their foot back on the ball or as close as you can to it – we don't want to be playing touch football with the play the ball," Bennett said.  

"At the same time the referees can't afford to be ridiculous with the amount of penalties because the media will beat them up and the fans aren't going to enjoy it either. 

"I think the referees will consistently find one or two [penalties] for incorrect play the balls each game. I'm not going to be happy as a coach if we give away penalties like this because we shouldn't be giving them away."

Teams who are penalised for a poor play the ball – in which a players' foot does not touch the ball during the process – will be stripped of possession.

The opposition team will then receive a tap of the football where the infringement took place. They will not be allowed to kick for touch. 

Bennett believes this punishment fits the crime. 

"I like the rule with it. You are getting an advantage as the non-offending team but you aren't kicking for the sideline and starting your set of six 40 metres up the field – you have to take the tap there and then," said Bennett 

"I think that's a really good thing for the game and that takes some of the pain and frustration away that you get as a fan and as a player when your team has the ball, then all of a sudden you've lost it because a guy hasn't played the ball properly."