The Sea Eagles finished the 2021 season with the most long-range tries and ranked third in points in what was one of the most potent offensive seasons the NRL has ever seen. Penn has told the media that the league's decision to change the controversial 'six-again' rule will stiffen the Eagles' chances to 'fly'.
The rule change reads, "Instead of a set-start, a penalty will be awarded if a team commits a ruck infringement or has a player or players inside the ten metres while inside the 40 metre zone of the team in possession".
Changes to the six-again rule, which was originally implemented in 2020, were introduced during this off-season to "provide an additional deterrence to defending teams who are willing to concede set restarts to gain a tactical advantage,” according to a statement from the NRL.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys has previously praised the rule for making the game faster, but understood amendments were necessary.
“It’s certainly opened the game up to be more entertaining and brought the brilliant players back into vogue,” V’landys said to News Corp.
“We want to consolidate the rules now – they now need bedding down."
This free-flowing offensive-minded play has defined the 'rule-change era'. Manly, on the back of Tom Trbojevic and their outside backs, Reuben Garrick and Jason Saab, could be the poster child for this tactical shift.
“I’m very confident we can entertain the same way we have but we want to make sure the game isn’t slowed down,” Penn said.
“Our boys have been very successful at throwing the ball around and entertaining. That is what fans want to see more of as well. We have a lot of fast players and we want to take advantage of it. Our (television) ratings increase on the back of expansionary play.
“The x-factor we are a little concerned about is this rule change with the penalty inside the 40 metres. It was a six again compared to it now being a stop play.
"We would have preferred to stay the way it was because we seem to be able to take advantage of that."
Penn also believes that while this amendment is intended to eliminate teams' ability to use the rule for a tactical advantage, sides will just find a different way to slow down the pace of the game - by finding touch, defending the ruck and moving offside.
“Of course, yeah, yes. And that’s something we’re definitely wary of (teams slowing down his side). All the teams that have done well in the last five years or so have been very good at play the ball speed and moving the ball," Penn said.
I'm not quite sure rule amendments can slow down a Trbojevic led Manly offence, but the reigning Premiers, the Penrith Panthers, will attempt to do so, under the new rules, this Thursday to open the 2022 NRL season.