You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

"I felt like we played a whole game in that first half, it went on forever."

It might've come with a wry smile but Paul Momirovski's cheeky comment after his first outing for the Panthers gave a strong indication of what teams can expect under the ruck and scrum rule changes in 2021.

Having not played a game since September last year, Momirovski joined several of his Panthers teammates on Monday confident they can overcome the NRL's latest tweaks before their season opener against the Cowboys.

After Eels coach Brad Arthur likened the speed of Saturday night's trial opening to a finals-like pace, Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary said it gave a glimpse into what teams can expect, particularly in defence.

"The main thing about the rule changes now is there's not much time to catch your breath, you're constantly on the go with the play-the-balls now once the ball goes out," Cleary said.

Episode 1 - Footy returns for 2021

"I really enjoyed it, I think everyone felt tired at stages but it's a part of footy and we'll see how it goes throughout the year."

Panthers hooker Api Koroisau described the opening 20 minutes as a "grind with no real break" as six-again and scrums were replaced with a play-the-ball, while Isaah Yeo said the amount of additional time in play was noticeable.

"It obviously makes the players a touch more tired but it seems to open it up a little bit," Yeo said.

The key player signings to watch in 2021

"There will definitely be more fatigue in there. It's going to take a bit of getting used to for the players which are normal for rule changes, any sort of up in speed or that sort of stuff.

"It's exciting for the fans and they're a big part of this game. I'd imagine there will be a few more tries and a bit more open play but very fast."

In Canberra, Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson marked his return from an ACL injury with a brutal reality check as the Roosters came from behind late in the contest.

The Raiders were put through their paces last month by NRL referee Phil Henderson in a bid to adapt to the changes.

"It just felt like the ball was in play more," Hodgson said.

"It felt like there weren’t really many chances to get that break that you’re used to getting more often than not if the ball went into touch and you got that time to pack a scrum and you'd catch a breather there.

"That's what the people who made the rule changes want in the game and I felt like that's what they’ve probably done. It felt pretty quick."

Round 1 flashback: Raiders v Broncos, 1999

Meanwhile, Cleary offered a wry smile when asked if he'd been practising long-range field goals at training with two points now on offer for attempts made from 40 metres out.

"I've been practising and we've spoken about it a little bit but it's kind of situational," he said.

"The only problem is if you hit it alright but it misses and goes dead it's a seven-tackle set. But I think it's cool and adds another dimension."

Bulldogs playmaker Kyle Flanagan is another sharpshooter eyeing off the new rule.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Bulldogs

"We have been practising it and just before half-time obviously, if it is 12-12 or something like that with 30 seconds to go you might have a crack," he said.

"Other than that, I don't really see it happening too much. It is pretty much hit and miss from 40 metres out, I am not Latrell Mitchell or Jamayne Isaako who has got a 50-metre field goal but I go alright."

Flanagan's former halves partner, Luke Keary, doesn't believe the ploy will be used too often.

"It just gives you a chance," he said. "I think it will be a bit like the 20/40 one. You may see a couple of them at half-time or right at the back end of the game."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners