Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Prepare for chaos under new laws

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Paul Gallen will be doing less of this in 2014. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Gallen will be doing less of this in 2014. Photo / Getty Images

Get ready for some chaos as the NRL rule changes roll out next week.

One of the main areas of focus will be the referees' communication with players, always a source of amusement and fascination.

Under the new laws, captains can't talk to a referee after a penalty, usually the most common time for dialogue. How is someone such as Sharks captain Paul Gallen going to restrain himself?

Protests (let's face it, no one tells the referee what a good job he's doing) will essentially be limited to tries and injury breaks.

The rule makers have also decreed that "captains will also be given an opportunity to speak to the referees as the players leave the field at halftime".

Genius. Who goes first? What if the referee decides to bolt? And what are the chances of some serious jostling, as 24 other players leave the field at the some time? There is potential for some great theatre but it's an unwise move.

Surely a greater imperative is to turn off the referees' microphones except during breaks in play or when they are making decisions; it's become too much of an intrusion, a distraction even, as referees need to be conscious of everything they say.

At the same time, what about an imperative that officials should address players only by their numbers, or first names? It all seems a bit too chummy when you hear "JT", "Gazza", or "Gallo".

There is already a perception that league suffers from the Michael Jordan effect (the NBA great was rarely charged with fouls). Storm star Cameron Smith, for example, seems to get away with a lot more than a no-name Warriors forward.

Using nicknames is far too friendly; the late Barry Gomersall would be turning in his grave.

Apart from that, some of the rule changes should be applauded. The zero tackle at 20m restarts (to discourage deliberate long range kicks over the dead ball line) is a good initiative, as is the goalkicking time limit of 80 seconds.

But the tap restart from a 40/20 (instead of a scrum) is no advantage to the attacking team; it means a full defensive line across the field.

And we need more clarity on the obstruction rule, the source of much contention over the season. Deliberate stripping of the ball also needs to be addressed, as it is a blight on the game. As well as a penalty, what about a spell in the sinbin for players who transgress three times in the same match?

- Herald on Sunday

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Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

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