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Captain's challenge given go-ahead for round 1

Clubs now need to work on ensuring they use the tactic effectively after the captain's challenge has officially been implemented for the 2020 season.

The format used during the All Stars and Charity Shield pre-season games will be retained during the Telstra Premiership.

There were four challenges across the two games in which it was trialled – two successful (both by the Dragons) and two unsuccessful (one each by the Rabbitohs and Maori All Stars).

Ben Hunt arguably showed how the tactic should be used twice, when touches were missed by the on-field officials and the Dragons were able to reverse restarts originally given to their opponents.

Adam Reynolds burned his just before half-time despite it appearing the referees correctly noticed a Rabbitohs knock on, which was confirmed by the Bunker.

The new Bunnies skipper later admitted he thought teams had one challenge per half rather than one per game.

Blair was allowed to challenge a knock-on call ruled against Maori teammate Kenny Bromwich despite it appearing more than the allowed 10 seconds had elapsed and lost his challenge with the Bunker agreeing with the on-field call that the ball was not stripped.

How the captain's challenge will work

Teams will need to ensure they know who is their on-field representative allowed to challenge calls in the event their captain is off, and with just 10 seconds (or until a restart takes place) to make their decision could well miss the boat in some cases.

That means there will be little times for conferences, with Dragons coach Paul McGregor questioning how much assistance a coaching box could provide, potentially via a signal they could give to the players from the sideline.

He did welcome the chance to correct two calls that had gone against his team, though the Rabbitohs would not have had the opportunity in the second half having lost their one incorrect challenge in the first half.

There has not so far been an instance of a "tactical" challenge, or a team burning a challenge to buy themselves time when under pressure, though this has been raised in some quarters as a potential misuse of the new rule.

The video reviews have not been lengthy and with fans supporting the introduction of a captain's challenge in online surveys, they will largely be happy for the additional review if it means getting more decisions right.

In announcing the new rule on Monday, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said it was brought in after the ARL Commission and the NRL football department had been pleased with how the system operated during the trials. 

"This is an exciting innovation for our game," he said. 

"It will add an additional layer of excitement, unpredictability and tactics to matches. Most importantly though, it provides an opportunity for a wrong decision to be overturned."

How it works

  • Only a captain or nominated co-captain can challenge a decision. Should the captain or co-captain be off the field, another player can be nominated to take his place;
  • Each team is allowed one unsuccessful challenge per game; 
  • The only decision that can be challenged are ones which involve a structured restart of play (e.g penalty, scrum, drop-out, etc.); 
  • Challenges will not be permitted where the referee allows play to proceed. 

Greenberg said the implementation of the captain’s challenge was an example of the game listening to fans. 

"At the end of last season, we conducted a fan survey and the biggest issue they raised was the impact of an incorrect decision on the game," he said. 

"The Commission has listened to our fans, taken on board what they said and brought in an innovation which gives clubs the opportunity to overturn a wrong decision."

Captain's challenge - successful

NRL head of football Graham Annesley said he would continue working with clubs to ensure all captains were clear on the system. 

"There were multiple captain’s challenges on the weekend and the system worked well, with feedback from our broadcasters also positive," he said. 

"We have spent a lot of time explaining the system to our clubs, players, media and broadcast partners and that will continue in the lead up to round one."

Captain's challenge - unsuccessful

Acknowledgement of Country

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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