“After six rounds, that is a pretty significant increase,” he said. “The game is being played faster and therefore we are seeing some mistiming with tackles.”
The introduction of the six-again rule in round three, after the season’s suspension, was intended to speed up the game following fan feedback.
By the end of round six, 53 charges had been handed to the judiciary compared to 33 at the same time last year.
The number of charges in relation to dangerous contact with the head and neck also soared, up by 65 per cent. This rise was attributed to the return of grapple-type tackles, which are being stamped out of the game.
“I think that we are just seeing more incidences being picked up,” Annesley said. “Generally I think there is a view we are trying to eradicate that sort of thing from the game.”
Annesley said clubs were happy for the charges to continue to be laid for any dangerous contact to the head and neck, so long as it was fair across all teams.
“Clubs are happy to see it cleaned up if it applies across the competition,” he said.
Scott Barker, who was appointed to the role of full-time ‘football analyst’ by the NRL this year, will monitor the statistics to provide more reasons for the rise in high tackles.
Despite the downside, Annesley backed the rule and said it showed how faster play statistically pushed the Eels game against the Roosters on Saturday to near-Origin heights.
During the match, the ball was in play for 57.8 minutes compared to 57.1 on average across the three Origin games last year.
The ball was in play for 60 per cent of the elapsed time of the game, the exact same as the fast-paced 2019 Origin series. There were fewer errors in Saturday’s game -15 to 17.
“We don’t have the Origin level as a target, per se,” Annesley said. “But the objective with the changes we made this year … everyone holds Origin up as kind of the example of how the game should be played, and how exciting it should be and how fast it should be.
“This was just a snapshot from one game … but I think we’ve seen a lot of games this year, which are getting very close to these numbers. “
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.