NRL open to change if new rules don't work

Andrew Abdo insists the NRL will listen to players, monitor 2021's new laws and adjust if necessary.
Andrew Abdo insists the NRL will listen to players, monitor 2021's new laws and adjust if necessary.

The NRL has promised to be agile on new rules after a number of players expressed concern over the increased speed of the game and its toll on their bodies.

On Thursday chief executive Andrew Abdo said the early rounds of the season will be a litmus test and he is prepared to make changes should the new laws have an undesirable impact.

"Like any change, you have to monitor and we'll adjust if we need to," Abdo told AAP.

"The first few rounds will be critical for us to gather data.

"Ultimately the objective is to create free-flowing football for fans, but we also have to balance that out and make sure we still maintain the fabric of the game and the different skill sets of the different players.

"It's a delicate balance."

The addition of a six-again for 10-metre infringements and a tap restart instead of a scrum when a player finds touch have been added to up the tempo from last season, which was already a noticeably faster game than in previous years.

The tweaks have caused concern for some players after an increase in injuries in 2020, although they cannot be solely attributed to the added pace of the game.

For Canberra co-captain Josh Hodgson, the concern is less about the rules and more about how they were introduced.

The NRL's innovations committee developed the new laws and included senior players Damien Cook and Luke Keary in the discussions, as well as coaches, referees and administrators.

However, Hodgson believes there should be better consultation with playing groups before testing rules in a match for competition points.

"It's important that we all move in the right direction for the players and the game," he said.

"When you change a rule it's something that should be discussed among the playing groups.

"Ask the players, we're the ones out there playing. Ask them what will work and what won't work."

The new laws for 2021 were announced at the end last year, giving clubs a full pre-season to train before the new season starts on March 11.

In favour of innovation and creating an entertaining product, Abdo defended the NRL's desire to try something new - including the controversial new two-point field goal.

"We have over 500 contracted players so we don't speak to all of them but of course we take their views into account," he said.

"When things like rule changes happen, it's important to take the data and people's perspective and views on things, but then make a call on perhaps something that's never been done before.

""You ask 16 different clubs, you get 16 different views on things and they're all valid.

"The NRL and the commission have to make a call on balancing all of those competing priorities.

"If something isn't working, the commission will look at that and adapt to it."

Australian Associated Press