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Full throttle: New rule triggers tryfest, slashes penalties

The rugby league product of 2020 is defying the doom around the COVID pandemic by delivering high-octane tries and performances, according to the NRL's Head of Football Graham Annesley.

At his weekly briefing on Monday Annesley put forward another set of statistics to emphasise the fact NRL games are producing more entertainment and less breaks in play.

"We've got close to 70 additional tries this year over the previous two years," Annesley said.

"I think that's a good demonstration of the way the game has opened up this year."

After 128 games from each of the past three seasons, there were 825 tries in 2018, 822 in 2019 and 890 this year.

Surprisingly while line breaks enjoyed a big rise in 2020 compared with 2019, they were around the same figure as in 2018 – or only 19 more than that season.

But the other big shift is in penalties – from 2196 in 2018 right down to 1308 in 2020.

"So we've got a drop of nearly 900 penalties over the last three seasons," Annesley said.

"That's 900 less stoppages in our game. And how that's averaged out is we did have over 17 per game and we're now down to 10.

"So that's a drop of around seven [per] game which may not sound a lot but believe me it makes a big difference in the terms of the stop-start nature of the game.

"When we introduced the six-again rule one of our objectives was to keep the ball in play as much as possible and I think these stats for tries, line breaks and penalties has certainly achieved that outcome."

Annesley reiterated his comments after round 15 that the 2020 competition was not seeing an avalanche of blow-out scorelines.

But he conceded the round 16 games – which included huge wins to the Rabbitohs, Roosters, and Warriors – did have particularly high winning margins with the average being over 24 points.

Annesley said his number crunchers went back to a month out from the 2019 finals series – so round 20 last year – to try to get a "like-for-like" comparison.

"In round 20 last year it was a 25-point average. So it's not uncommon at this time of year to see some of these wider margins in games," he said.

"You tend to get, when you have the top teams playing some of those outside the eight, some of these margins blow out a little bit.

"But it's not unusual and not something we haven't experienced in other years."

Graham Annesley weekly football briefing - Round 16