Bennett alternative to NRL interchange cut

Coach Wayne Bennett says the NRL should reduce time wasting in games, not the interchange system.Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett believes cracking down on time wasted during NRL games is a better option than an interchange reduction, as the code seeks to limit its injury toll.
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The league’s competition committee met on Friday and endorsed a review of the interchange system, amid calls for it to be cut from eight to six.

One school of thought is that more interchanges have increased the speed of the game and resulted in more high-impact injuries between bigger and stronger players.

There is plenty of support for the move, with retired halfback Matthew Johns believing it should drop to four changes per team and give players no option to return once they have left the field.

But Bennett, who has coached for more than 40 years and holds seven first-grade premierships, says there’s an easier way to address the injury concerns which needs to be tried first.

“We’ve got to fix up the amount of time being wasted in the game; if we fix that up, we may not have to go to six,” he said.

“There’s that much time wasted at the moment, it’s embarrassing as a coach.”

The interchange was dropped last season from 10 to eight and resulted in the total number of games missed by players through injury dropping from 975 to 813.

“We’ll have three years of data by the end of the season and we have always felt that is an appropriate period to judge the impact of the changes,” NRL head of football Brian Canavan said.

But Bennett said captains talking to referees, minor injuries stopping games, delays in scrums and line dropouts, players dawdling off after being sin-binned and video referee delays were all frustrating delay tactics that needed to be addressed first.

“If we don’t fix this stuff, they will find a way to extend the game out further, because teams are all looking for a break and they use it strategically to get an advantage,” he said.

“All it does is give people more time to get their breath back … no fan wants to sit there and watch nothing happening.”

The committee, made up of former players, and current and former coaches and administrators, also endorsed the game’s crackdown on play-the-ball infringements and 10-metre ruling which had triggered a penalty overload earlier this season.

The group implemented the change after meeting in November and said the increased compliance had “led to a more entertaining brand of rugby league”.

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