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Speedy six-again tempo gets most important approval of all - the fans

The modern game in the six-again era is played at such a ferocious pace that only the elite athletes will survive and thrive, and the footy served up in the first 24 rounds has been brilliant, breath-taking and brutal all at once.

And a ringing endorsement has come from the fans who took part in the 2021 NRL Fans' Poll, with 65 per cent saying that the speed of the game is "just right", twice the number who felt it was "too fast".

Like every significant rule change in the history of our game, the six-again call introduced last season sparked plenty of debate among players, coaches and fans, and those spirited conversations continue as we march towards the 2021 finals.

In a bid to stamp out the incessant ruck infringements that had become a blight on the game, the NRL gave referees the power to call "six-again" for the attacking side rather than blowing a penalty, thus speeding up the game and helping it to flow.

Good riddance to the wrestle and goodbye to the grapple. A win-win situation if ever there was one.

As NRL head of football Graham Annesley explained in May last year when the competition resumed after its COVID-enforced lay-off, referees would signal "six-again" for any defensive ruck infringement that in the past would have resulted in a penalty, including holding down, hand on the ball, crowding at the play-the-ball and leg pulls.

Annesley also revealed a penalty would be awarded for a professional foul or repeated infringements if a team attempted to slow the play down so their defensive line could get set.

As the 2020 season progressed, the game got faster, the spectacle got better and the ugly spectacle of three and four defenders pulling an attacker to the ground and laying all over him for an eternity was pretty much eradicated.

In 2021 we have seen scoring records smashed by the likes of Melbourne and Souths as the game has opened up even further and players have their endurance stretched to the limit.

Like everything in rugby league, changing the rules has triggered widespread opinion but the fans have shown they're on board with the super-charged tempo of the game.

Held in conjunction with The Daily Telegraph/The Courier Mail, the annual poll also revealed Tom Trbojevic a runaway winner as the game's best player, Roosters sensation Sam Walker the rookie of the year and Storm mentor Craig Bellamy the best coach.

Of the new rules brought in this year, the two-point field goal from beyond 40 metres has proved a hit, with 70 per cent of fans giving it the thumbs up.

The honour of landing the first ever two-point field goal belongs to South Sydney's greatest scorer Adam Reynolds, who landed a 43-metre monster on the stroke of half-time in round five to give his team an 18-6 lead over Brisbane which they converted into a 35-6 win.

Just to prove that was no fluke, Reynolds repeated the dose a week later in far more dramatic circumstances when he dragged the Rabbitohs back from the brink of defeat against Wests Tigers with a 42-metre strike that tied the scores at 14-14.

From there the game went to extra time and Tom Burgess went from hero to villain to hero in the space of 60 seconds as Souths escaped with an 18-14 triumph in a pulsating encounter.

Reynolds from downtown to tie it up

Had it not been for Reynolds's trusty right boot and a bit of left-field thinking from the ARL Commission, big Tom would not have had his moment in the sun.

"I love Peter’s new rule. It’s made for us," Souths coach Wayne Bennett joked post-match, praising the two-point field goal rule championed by ARLC chairman Peter V'landys that few expected to see such action so early in its existence.

"It was ideal because one point wasn’t going to get us there. He snapped it and away we went."

With the Bennett seal of approval and an overwhelming majority of NRL fans on board as well it seems the two-point field goal is here to stay, just like the six-again rule which has helped deliver a high-octane, fast-paced game made for the likes of his crafty Rabbitohs No.7 and the posse of playmakers chasing premiership glory on that first Sunday in October.

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



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