Sam Burgess missed week one of the NRL finals in 2019 due to an accumulation of demerit points. Image by (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

rugby league

NRL scrap finals bans for minor offences

2020-02-14 20:17:50

The NRL has overhauled the match review and judicial process ahead of the 2020 season to avoid players missing finals matches for grade one offences.

Following a meeting of club chief executives in Perth, the ARLC approved an overhaul of the match review and judicial system, allowing players involved in finals to qualify for one additional monetary fine rather than demerit points for minor offences.

The change seeks to avoid another controversial suspension as was seen in 2019, when South Sydney forward Sam Burgess missed the first week of the finals for a grade one contrary conduct charge due to an accumulation of demerit points.

“Nobody wants to see players miss big games for relatively minor offences,” head of football Graham Annesley said.

“Even if players have exhausted their monetary sanctions by round 25, all players involved in the finals series will receive an additional monetary fine they can apply for.”

Under the previous rule, a player could only receive a maximum of two fines in a season.

It’s the most significant update to the judicial system in the list of changes released on Friday, which includes increased demerit points for high tackle offences, transparency around hearings and streamlined guidelines.

The match review committee will now consider force, conduct and risk of injury when deciding on gradings and reduce the focus on comparable incidents.

“The guidelines aim to provide greater clarity to clubs and fans regarding the factors that may influence the grading of an incident,” Annesley said.

“In the past there has been a reliance on previous offences. The new guidelines will give the MRC members more licence to focus on the offence in front of them. Clubs will now have much more specific information available to them so they can decide whether to accept or defend charges.”

The NRL has also reduced the number of comparable incidents that can be used during a judiciary hearing from three to one, using examples from only from the past year.

Players will face more time on the sidelines in a crackdown on high tackles.

Demerit points for grade two and three careless high tackles have been increased to 200 points and 300 points respectively (from 150 points and 200 points).

Demerit points for reckless high tackles have been increased to 400 points for grade one, 500 points for grade two and 600 points for grade three.

“It became clear that the previous penalties for mid to high range high tackles was not a strong enough deterrent for the type of offence,” Annesley said.

“A stronger message needs to be sent and it will be.”

Michael Buettner has been replaced as MRC coordinator by former Canberra and Manly player Michael Robertson.

Michael Hodgson has been retained on the panel, while Luke Patten and Anthony Quinn have been appointed to the MRC, replacing Buettner and Stuart Raper.

They will also explore the possibility of live streaming some judiciary hearings to increase transparency around the process.