Boyd Cordner could be using the Captain’s Challenge this season. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts
Boyd Cordner could be using the Captain’s Challenge this season. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

15 second rule change that could save an NRL season

FIFTEEN seconds to save a season.

That's the precious thinking time Boyd Cordner, Cameron Smith, Wade Graham and every other NRL club captain will get for the NRL's new captain's challenge rule.

If a captain wants to challenge a knock-on, illegal steal or obstruction in 2020, he will have a ticking clock of just 15 seconds from the moment the incident occurs to lodge an official challenge.

LIVE stream Indigenous All-Stars v Maori Kiwis in the 2020 Harvey Norman NRL All Stars match on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

Any longer than 15 seconds and the opportunity is lost. Play on.

The NRL is inching closer to implementing the rule, which they believe could be a game changer for rugby league and an exciting new addition for fans, who for too long have gone home from matches feeling empty after a refereeing howler.


This rule puts the onus - not all, but a large percentage - back on the team's captain, as opposed to the referee.

Captains will need to rely heavily on the honesty of their teammates in deciding whether to challenge a call. A wrong call could prove monumental.

A premiership could be decided on the back of a captain's ability to challenge a call, such is the power that every on-field leader could soon possess to review a refereeing decision.

In the heat of battle, imagine the pressure on Cordner coming from pumped-up Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for his skipper to challenge a call.

Referee Ben Cummins’ infamous grand final call.
Referee Ben Cummins’ infamous grand final call.

Imagine the pressure on Cordner being hurled from fans with the Roosters and Raiders locked-up at 10-10 with only minutes to play.

Imagine Storm coach Craig Bellamy thumping the glass of his coaches box, demanding Cameron Smith challenge the call after Josh Addo-Carr was ruled to have put his boot over the sideline.

And then imagine Bellamy's face when he realises Smith can't challenge the decision because he wasted the Storm's one and only challenge on a referee's decision in the first-half that replays prove was correct.

The entire strategy and implementation plan for the captain's challenge rule - including how, when and where captains can use the rule during every match of the 2020 season - is set to be unveiled to the ARL Commission at a crucial meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

The NRL are leaning towards giving captains 15 seconds - possibly less, but certainly no more - to use their challenge.

What we can also tell you is that after deep consultation and analysis by the NRL football department to ensure the game continues to flow, captains will be given just one challenge per game.

Peter V'landys. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi
Peter V'landys. Picture: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

If a captain successfully challenges a call by the referee and the decision is overturned, the captain will keep his one challenge.

But if a challenge is lodged and the replays show the referee's original call was correct, the captain loses his challenge for the remainder of the match.

Under the current proposal set to be outlined to the Commission, there are limitations on what captains can and can't challenge during play.

They will be allowed to challenge a decision by the referee to ignore going to the video review bunker for a possible try.

They can also challenge penalties for illegal player strips, obstruction calls, knock-ons, or if a fullback is deemed to have touched a ball rolling dead in-goal.

Captains won't be allowed to yell "challenge, challenge" at the referee the moment that the opposition is racing away for a runaway try.

Retired Souths great Sam Burgess thanks the referee. Picture: Brett Costello
Retired Souths great Sam Burgess thanks the referee. Picture: Brett Costello

ARL chairman Peter V'landys has made no secret of his desire to win back fans and sponsors and increase participation, sponsorship and TV numbers. Which means he isn't afraid to look outside the square.

When the majority of a surveyed 18,000 fans declared a captain's challenge was the No.1 rule change they would like to see, NRL head football Graham Annesley revealed in October the code would spend summer preparing for its implementation for the 2020 season.

On Thursday the ARL Commission will decide whether to give the rule change the green light.