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Rugby league: NRL introduces 18th man following a flurry of injuries in round three matches

An 18th man will be introduced following a spate of injuries in the NRL.

30 Mar, 2021 04:45 PM4 minutes to read

Sione Katoa of the Sharks (front left) and Mitchell Moses of the Eels are both attended to during their NRL round three matchup. Photo / Getty

Following heated debate within the rugby league community, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has approved the introduction of an 18th man in the NRL premiership.

Round three of the 2021 season was headlined by a tumultuous number of injuries and concussions.

The Canberra Raiders were left with only one substitute on the bench against the Warriors after three players were taken off the ground in the opening 14 minutes.

And the following day, the Cronulla Sharks played the second half of their match against the Parramatta Eels with zero substitutes following three failed HIAs.

On Tuesday afternoon, the ARLC gave in principle approval for the introduction of an 18th player when three team members fail HIA tests, but the concussion substitute must be an "emerging player".

The ARLC will consult with clubs and players before the rule is implemented from round five, which commences on Thursday, April 8th.

Although the 18th player would have benefited Cronulla on Sunday evening, NRL teams have rarely found themselves in such an unfortunate situation.

As revealed by the NRL Physio, the previous instance of three players failing an HIA in the same team before last weekend was round seven of the 2016 premiership.

If there has ever been evidence a concussion sub (18th man) is needed, today is that day. Both Sharks & Raiders left with bare bone benches after multiple concussions (+ other injuries). Injuries are part of the fabric of the game but this would be a great move for player safety

— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) March 27, 2021

Obviously a small sample size, but something to keep an eye on moving forward ⬇️Concussions in the first 3 NRL rounds for 2021: 17 (at least)If current rate continues, total concussions for the 2021 season: ~ 150Past 4 seasons concussion totals: 91, 92, 78, 92

— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) March 28, 2021

Good luck with that ...

— Phil Gould (@PhilGould15) March 30, 2021

Super useful and relevant rule change I see.

— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) March 30, 2021

ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys said in a statement: "This is a dynamic environment. As a Commission we have always said we would be agile in changing rules when it is in the best interests of the game and this is one of those examples.

"We see this as an opportunity to give an emerging player a taste of first grade rugby league in their team's time of need. The 18th player will also have to be rotated weekly so you don't have a young player missing out on playing lower grades every week.

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"All fans agree we don't want to see a situation where a club is left with one player on the bench and this rule change will provide insurance for all clubs. It will also only be activated in the most dire of circumstances for a club, so we don't see it having a material impact on games every week."

Speaking on Fox League's NRL 360, The Daily Telegraph's Paul Kent argued NRL coaches will look to "rort" the rule change to gain an upper hand.

"If you have two HIAs – which can be fairly common – there's a chance they will rort the third to get him off," Kent said on Tuesday evening.

"They should also look at this mandatory standown period, so if you come off to do the rort to get another guy on, you stand them down for seven to eleven days so that they miss next week.

"They'd start faking injuries – that's what will happen.

"We've had unlimited interchange, to some having to play half a game of reserve grade – all these different scenarios.

"And the whole thing that is consistent is that coaches can't be trusted – they're looking for a competitive advantage."

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