It is difficult to give an opinion on the new rule changes until we see how they play out during the season, but there are serious questions as to whether the new two-point field goal from outside the 40-metre line rule will achieve its intended purpose.
The apparent purpose of the new two-point field goal rule which no one was calling for, which was never previously discussed publicly and not part of any fan poll, is to encourage unstructured play, increase the opportunity to change the result and provide an additional point scoring opportunity.
There are a number of reasons why this new rule could end up being counterproductive.
Two-point deficits during the dying minutes of games and two-point results are very common at NRL level. What the new two-point field goal rule will do is potentially create more 80-minute draws, resulting in more games going to golden point extra time, another part of the game that divides public opinion.
While more golden point games may sound exciting to some, since its introduction we have seen the hot mess field goal shootouts can do to a quality game of rugby league.
The new two-point field goal will also take away a team’s incentive to score tries. If a team is trailing by two in the dying minutes, we could see a team’s mindset change from needing to score a try to win, to getting themselves in a position to take a long-range shot to level the scores and either take the game into golden point or set themselves up to take another field goal to take the lead.
Fans want to see tries scored so defies logic as to why the ARL Commission would believe its supporters would want to see more field goals.Embed from Getty Images
Fans would also like to see great defence rewarded. A good defensive set can be undone if the opposition flukes a field goal from outside the 40-metre line and collects two points. We can all acknowledge that the game must always evolve to continue attracting new audiences, but there are more than plenty of traditionalists out there who love a good old fashioned 8-4 scrap.
The obvious risk to long-range field goal attempts is giving away a 20-metre seven tackle set to the opposition if you miss and the ball goes dead, but if a team is trailing by two with limited time remaining in the game, expect the risk to be taken more often than not.
Now of course the likelihood that we will see a dramatic increase in field goal attempts from beyond the 40-metre line in 2021 will be minimal, but the game may slowly evolve in that direction – a more “rugby union style of play” as some have suggested – and you can expect a significant increase in long-range dropkick practice by halves at all clubs after the Christmas break. It may become a prerequisite for each team to select a long-range field goal sharpshooter.
Rugby league supporters have widely rejected the new rule as unnecessary and stupid, although there is a minority of supporters who would at least like to see it play out before making up their minds.
If the new field goal rule does not achieve its purpose in making the game a better product, the NRL should scrap it, even mid-season if necessary.