After much talk over recent times, the NRL is set to introduce an 18th man rule on Tuesday.
The rule comes after concern surrounding teams becoming disadvantaged should they lose a player through an injury, similar to the reasoning for the medical sub rule implemented in the AFL.
However, there is widespread concern, as there was within the AFL community, that teams will exploit the rule to instead bring on fresh legs deep into a game.
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“I think the 18th man is a good idea for the game but I suppose you have got to make sure that you can’t rort the system and all of that sort of stuff,” Walker said.
However, a prime example of the rule’s necessity was on show on Saturday night, as Cronulla lost four players through injury during their match against Paramatta, leaving their bench empty of reserves.
This is said to be the tipping point that the ARL needed to green-light the law, with the commission meeting on Tuesday to discuss the proposal.
On Fox Sport’s NRL 360, journalist Phil Rothfield has claimed that there would be strings attached to the new rule to prevent exploitation.
“…There’ll be strict conditions about using this extra player,” he said.
“With the 18th player they are even thinking of making it a development or emerging player so that will stop coaches putting experienced 26-year-olds middle forwards on as 18th man to use them late in the game.”
There has been controversy within league’s rival code, the AFL, with clubs seemingly ‘rorting’ the rule.
The rule stipulates that if a player is deemed ‘medically unfit’ to finish the game, a 23rd man is allowed to be used.
However, the subbed-off player is required to sit out 12 days unless deemed fit by the AFL Medical Officer before their next match, meaning that clubs are technically able to sub off players who are unable to finish the match, but still play them in the following weekend should they prove their fitness.
Journalist Paul Kent has suggested a concrete, mandatory “swandown” period for players subbed off for the 18th man.
“…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,” Kent said.
“I’m a fan of it should only be used for HIAs, not for ACLs or any other injury.”
On Saturday night at Paramatta, the Sharks had three players go down for head injury assessments, with all of them not being cleared to return to the field.
Should the rule be cleared, it is likely that it could be implemented before Thursday night’s match between the Sea Eagles and Panthers in Manly.