Mark Carroll believes the game has lost something.
Mark Carroll believes the game has lost something.

Push for NRL to revive gladiator battles

Former NRL hard men and leading coaches have joined the campaign to slash the number of interchanges from eight to six to revive the lost gladiatorial battles of rugby league.

The interchange debate will be reignited when the NRL's competition committee, which includes legends Mal Meninga and Darren Lockyer, meets on Thursday for a two-day workshop.

There have been calls to reintroduce the fatigue factor into the NRL through reducing the interchange, which would help unravel rigid defensive lines and speed up play.

"The game could become more of an attacking focus. It will introduce fatigue and less collision injuries," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said. "Interchange planning would become more strategic which would bring more coaching into play."

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown said the change would also bring more balance to the game.

"Dropping interchange to six would certainly help give the smaller creative player more opportunities," Brown said. "The games rules have, for too long, given the big man an advantage over the smaller player."

Former forwards Mark Carroll and Steve Roach want a return to the old days of forwards playing long and harder minutes.

"I want to see the Gladiatorial element come back into our game - when players' backsides were dragging on the ground but they have to keep going," Carroll said. "I want to see the next Ray Price and Brad Clyde, 80-minute players.

"I'd like to see it pulled back to six interchanges. It will bring out the toughness. It would also bring the little bloke back into the game more too. He would be taking on the line to find the tired big bloke."

Blocker Roach wants a return to the good old days.
Blocker Roach wants a return to the good old days.

Roach, of the game's toughest front-rowers, has backed the concept but also wants a rule than only two defenders can be involved in each tackle.

"Blokes pride themselves on playing minutes. Drop it down to six. Players would adapt, your body is an amazing thing," Roach said. "It would bring back attack. I love the game no matter what rules are in but a lot of people are howling that it's too defence orientated.

"And while we're at it, I'd like to see them bring in two in a tackle. It's hard to play free-flowing footy because defences are so good, they tie you up. That third man coming in diving at the legs - that's not tough, mate. Diving at legs when two blokes have got hold of you, that's just trying to maim someone."

The competition committee will include NRL representatives Bernie Sutton, Graham Annesley, Wayne Pearce and Todd Greenberg along with external members Meninga, Lockyer, Clint Newton, Paul Green, John Lang and Ivan Cleary.

We probably will never see the likes of these days again, with good reason. (Joe Murphy)
We probably will never see the likes of these days again, with good reason. (Joe Murphy)

One premiership-winning coach also stressed the interchange should be decreased to seven.

"They have to look at how they keep the ball in play. The eight-rule interchange is too many," he said. "You don't need to change it by two, you can change it one, but I don't think they will."

Panthers general manager Phil Gould wasn't totally enamoured with the competition committee, despite it including his new Penrith coach in Cleary.

"The problem with committees is that they feel compelled to make decisions to justify their roles. Perhaps we need a committee to go back and correct some of the competition committee's past mistakes," Gould said.

"We already have too many teams abusing the concussion rule. Reducing interchange will only encourage more of this practice. What is the aim of reducing interchange? I assume it's to create fatigue, because people believe this will assist attacking football.

"However, there are better ways to introduce more fatigue into the game by ensuring the ball is in play for longer periods. There are far too many stoppages in our game at present. Far too many."


The age of the Ray Prices has passed. (Anthony Weate)
The age of the Ray Prices has passed. (Anthony Weate)

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and Cowboys coach Paul Green want more information before making comment.

"I believe it will stay the same until we have more data and information around how reducing it will impact the game," Flanagan said. "HIA has made a noticeable difference over the last couple of years and reducing interchange on the back of that could create big problems."

Green added: "I need to see some info around where the game is at and what impact the increased penalties have had before I give an opinion."

The interchange was increased several years ago to reduce the amount of injuries.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur wasn't concerned either way given most of his forwards can play big minutes.


Every Test, ODI & T20I live, ad-break free during play and in 4K. Only on Foxtel. Get 1 month free Sport HD plus Entertainment with no lock-in contract and no iQ4 box fee. T&C apply. SIGN UP NOW!