PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05: James Maloney of the Panthers crosses to score the winning try during the round 21 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Panthers Stadium on August 5, 2018 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05: James Maloney of the Panthers crosses to score the winning try during the round 21 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Panthers Stadium on August 5, 2018 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

NRL’s referee mandate will reward attacking footy

Let the game flow and you will be rewarded.

The NRL is visiting all 16 clubs to reveal a new policy where referees will show on-field discretion for teams that employ an open and attractive game plan.

NRL head of football, elite competitions, Graham Annesley, will continue holding one-on-one meetings with club coaches, football managers and CEOs this week pushing for an attractive style to be implemented throughout this season.

The NRL's strategic plan has an objective for entertaining football, yet statistics from the past two years show the game is slowing up through excessive stoppages - and Annesley wants that changed.

Referees will be instructed to be flexible during matches and not adopt a "one-size-fits-all" policy.

"We want more attacking and enjoyable football that will lure people through the gates and increase television ratings," Annesley told The Daily Telegraph.

Fans are sick of predictable football. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
Fans are sick of predictable football. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

"We are trying to get the clubs on board with a different approach.

"It's not as easy as just asking them to do that but it's also about the referees adopting a slightly different approach if teams are prepared to co-operate.

"If we can get a more open, attractive brand of football then the referees have been instructed to allow that to happen.

"Our objective is to see games as open and free-flowing as possible by reducing stoppages and increasing the time the ball is in play. We want the referees to allow the players to take centre stage. Teams that don't co-operate and push the boundaries will have to accept the consequences of their actions.

"It's not going to be open slather. Teams will be still expected to comply but match officials will be encouraged to react to what happens in front of them. It's in the hands of coaches and players.

Can the league spark for attacking play? AAP Image/Dave Hunt.
Can the league spark for attacking play? AAP Image/Dave Hunt.

"If they do comply and co-operate, then the referees will be told to allow the game to flow. My objective is get to more attacking football and obviously referees play a role in that but so do the coaches and players.

"The policy I have instructed to the referees and their coaching staff is that they are to treat each game on its merit. I don't mean they do anything other than that now but rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to every game they should wait and see what unfolds in front of them and react accordingly."

Annesley, who adjudicated 244 first grades games, wants referees to be removed from the spotlight.

"The referees will be instructed to stay out of the game as much as possible," Annesley said. "But that really is in the hands of the players and the co-operation they provide.

"I am briefing the clubs on what is expected for the coming year."

The NRL wants to cut down on time wasting. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
The NRL wants to cut down on time wasting. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

The NRL introduced rule changes late last year to minimise time wasting and keep the ball in play more. Those changes include a reduction of the scrum clock and dropout clock along with sin-binned players being told to leave the field by the most direct route.

"The main stats we monitor are about the number of stoppages in games, the length of stoppages in games and the amount of time the ball is in play," Annesley said. "Unfortunately over the past few years those stats have been heading in the wrong direction. We have to try and reverse that trend."

Annesley is also seeking feedback from clubs about last year and where they believe the game will be headed this season. He will have visited all clubs by the time trial matches start.

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