Reducing interchanges could revolutionise NRL: Lyons

FORMER champion five-eighth Cliff Lyons says the NRL could revolutionise the game and bring in more fans if it reduces the number of interchanges allowed per game.

The game's powerbrokers are considering cutting the number from the present 10 per game, in an effort to help reduce the amount of ugly incidents being carried out by big forwards on the game's little men.

In round two this year North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston was on the end of a late hit from Newcastle's Beau Scott, before having his head driven into the ground by the same player.

An angry Thurston later said it was now "open slather" for big men targeting smaller playmakers.

But the NRL's proposed rule changes could limit the targeting of certain players, with forwards potentially required to battle through fatigue and play longer minutes. Lyons excelled for Manly in the 1990s, winning a premiership in 1996 - an era of the game when only six interchanges were allowed.

"I think it's a great idea. It's something I've been talking about for years, and it will move the game in the right direction," Lyons told APN.

"Players need to play longer minutes so the smaller halves can run at the fatigued big men a bit more, and we'll see more excitement and unpredictability in the game."

Lyons also played in an era when the offside rule for the defending team was lengthened from 8m to 10m.

There has been an argument that defending teams can gather more momentum in defence when targeting playmakers from the opposing team under the 10m rule.

The wrestle, an unpopular component of the game, has also crept in as a result, in an effort by defending teams to slow down the play-the-ball.

But Lyons said a reduced interchange could result in the 10m rule remaining.

"Let's go one at a time," he said.

"If a reduced interchange rule is brought in and more players are playing under fatigue, there should be no need to reduce the 10m rule."

The NRL's head of football, Todd Greenberg, said the governing body would review the interchange rule in consultation with state leagues, the CRL, RLPA and UK Super League.

An expert review committee will be headed by Dr Kevin Norton, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Australia.

It is anticipated a recommendation would be made to the ARL Commission mid-year, so that any changes could be introduced in time for the elite 2016 competitions.

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