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The NRL today announced changes to the rules which will come into effect from the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership season.

Head of Football – Elite Competitions, Graham Annesley said the changes were aimed at increasing "ball in play" time and improving player safety.

The new rules for 2019 will include:

• A reduction of the scrum clock – reducing from 35 to 30 seconds

• A reduction of the drop-out clock – reducing from 30 to 25 seconds

• An increase to dangerous contact neck or head charges – with Grade 2 increasing to 300 points and Grade 3 increasing to 500 points (a Grade 1 charge will remain at 100 points)

• Any player sent to the sin bin or sent off will be required to run from the field of play, taking the most direct route to the dressing room. Failure to do so may lead to Clubs being breached and fined under NRL Rules and/or offending players may be charged with Contrary Conduct under the NRL Judiciary Code

• Allowing the Judiciary Panel to find a player guilty of an alternative charge when charged with a Shoulder Charge (e.g. Dangerous Contact)

Mr Annesley also confirmed that no change would be made to the number of interchange players for season 2019.

But he said further assessment will be conducted throughout the first half of next season, before a decision is made on any future reductions for 2020 onwards.

Mr Annesley said the amendments were designed to reduce the amount of stoppage time in games, increase the time the ball is in play and simplify operational practices and procedures.

The increased penalties for dangerous contact to neck and head follows a rise in the number of crusher tackles last season.

"There is clearly an unacceptable risk of injury from these tackles and we believe we need to have an adequate deterrent in place to improve player safety," Mr Annesley said.

"We have a world-class competition, with the 2018 season the closest in more than a decade," Mr Annesley said.

"But we can always improve and our aim with these rule amendments is to continue to deliver exciting and engaging matches for players, fans, broadcasters and all our stakeholders."

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St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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