Ricky’s rule: NRL open to expanding 18th man use
The NRL is considering a proposal from Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart to expand the use of an 18th man to cover serious acts of foul play.
Coaches would be allowed to replace players forced off the remainder of the game if the incident that caused the injury is serious enough to go on report or put a player in the sin bin.
Stuart's plan has the support of independent commission chairman Peter V'landys and will be considered by NRL management before the 18th man is introduced for round five.
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It was previously thought the use of an 18th man would be restricted to be a replacement for three players failing concussion tests.
"It's a good recommendation and we'll look at it, absolutely," V'landys said.
"I can see the merit in it. Use Nathan Cleary as an example. What if he's taken out with an illegal high shot in a finals game and Penrith's season is on the line.
"Why should Penrith be disadvantaged by an act of foul play? Why couldn't they have someone like Matt Burton as their 18th man. Surely no-one can argue with that."
The NRL has invited input from all 16 clubs before the 18th man rule is finalised.
"The thing about players injured from foul play, that's something no coach can exploit," Stuart said.
"Why should a team be weakened if one of their players has been taken out with an illegal shot. It's not right."
Stuart is actually in favour of having an 18th and 19th man on the bench.
And he is campaigning for clubs to be able to choose their next best players, not just an emerging talent.
"You should be able to have a back and a forward but only one can be used," he said.
"We always warm up with 19 players anyway. If I lose a winger to foul play, say he breaks his jaw in a high shot, it's not much use having a forward as the 18th man."
Stuart also supports the idea of having the 18th man to cover for three HIAs.
"There will be more HIAs this year and beyond because the pressure on the doctors is so severe in the modern climate," Stuart said, "They are leaning towards keeping the player off. And that's probably a good thing.
"It looks better for the players not to come back out. That's the pressure we're under.
"Like Brad Arthur and other coaches, I love a war of attrition too.
"Unfortunately it's been taken out of control now by the litigation threat from concussion.
"We have to try to find the best possible solution and the NRL is doing a great job to consult all the clubs before a decision is made."
Originally published as Ricky's rule: NRL open to expanding 18th man use