Time to say goodbye to the stripping rule

It is time to change the contentious new stripping rule back to how it was up until 2017, where defending teams are penalised for any strip where more than one defender is involved in a tackle.

The rule was changed in 2018 to allow a tackler to make a strip at any time so long as there is only one tackler in contact with the ball-runner at the time of the strip.

We didn't see a lot of it last year but at the start of this year, the Storm (who always seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to taking every advantage of the rule book) and Cameron Munster in particular showed how it could be done.

Since then we've seen teams training for it and bring in code words so the other tacklers know when to drop off and it's really proliferated and there were heaps of examples on Sunday from the Raiders and Storm in particular.

I see why some people were saying it was exciting at first but I think it's not getting to the point where it is detracting from the game and running totally counter to what I love about rugby league.

We should be rewarding energy and effort and determination rather than cheap plays.

What I want to see as a fan is a player running as hard as he can trying to knock people over with his strength and ability to stand in the tackle and see him do everything he can to get across the try line.

You've got to keep in mind this is one man up against three defenders and if a guy can do that and punch through the line he should be rewarded. That's what we should cheer and what I think most fans want to see.

To be lured into a situation where you're trying to do that, then two guys drop off and one guy rips the ball off you, it's like entrapment. It's not in the good nature of the game, it's more of a cheap shot. It's a short cut that's rewarded above effort and energy which is what the game is really about – effort and energy and attitude.

Teams are so coordinated in the way they do it now, it's almost impossible to have a pure focus of trying to knock opposition players out of the way and it will get to a stage where you just have to secure the ball at cost of doing what the fans want to see which is charging into the line with full commitment. Players will have to wrap the ball up with both hands and submit in tackles for fear of having the ball ripped away even when there are three or four defenders on them.

It's still fair game one-on-one because the ball-runner has a choice. If you can't secure the ball to beat one guy in front of you because you're too focused on those extra yards and trying to get across the line and he can rip it off you, that's poor ball security and that should be fair game.

But if it's three on one and you know you're safe from a strip then in a split second with no chance to adjust and react and change your body positioning to protect the ball, they drop off for a one-on-one strip that detracts from the good spirit of the game.

If I'm watching a game as an impartial viewer and there's a team on the attack I want to see ball runners trying to fend or offload or try to attack, not submitting in tackles. For me it's an anti-climax if the attacking team is doing everything right and a player is trying to break the line then a defender comes in like a thief in the night to steal the ball in a three-man tackle in what is basically a cheap play.

It's also making life unnecessarily hard on the referees.

We already spend too much time debating whether the officials got a call right and now they have an extra thing to worry about with all these split-second calls that have such a huge impact on the momentum of a game.

It exposes human error so much more – imagine a big game comes down to this decision then we're looking at a ref decision rather than the game, which there already is too much of.

There were already grey areas with the one-on-one steal but I'd rather have a grey area working out whether players came in before the steal as opposed to having to worry about when they went out as well.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.