New rules for Digicel Cup


Greetings to all our rugby league family and welcome to our 10th edition of “Fulltime Reserve” column for this year in our favourite rugby league newspaper, The National.
The first round of the Digicel Cup kicks off this weekend with matches scheduled for Lae and Port Moresby under strict public health-safety guidelines as provided under the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League’s (PNGRFL) ‘Banis Protocols’.
The kick-off also heralds the start of all our programmes with member associations and schools competitions to follow from May 22. All competitions must have PNGRFL clearance to ensure their compliance with the ‘Banis Protocols’; as no competition will be sanctioned until they satisfy the requirements.
PNGRFL will also be adopting new rule changes as ratified by the International Rugby League (IRL) at its last board meeting early this month. These rules are being implemented in the Digicel Cup and all other competitions this year, and PNGRFL has been working with all our franchises and the referees to bring them up to speed with these new rule changes.
PNGRFL has also sent out advisories to all member associations and school competitions of these rule changes for this year.
The new international rules being implemented across all competitions in PNG are as follows:

  • The hand-over rule – The rule will apply in the following situations:
    – Incorrect play-the-ball. This is no longer a penalty.
    – When a kick is taken into full, anytime between first tackle to the 5th tackle.
    – A kick that finds touch on the fifth tackle. This is no longer a scrum.
    – If the ball or a player with the ball enters touch. This is no longer a scrum.
  •  Scrum Rule – The rule will apply in the following situations:
    – “Referee’s Vocal”. Previously, when the ball comes out of the scrum, Referees call “out” but now the new “Referee’s Vocal” is “break”.
    – Both sides of the scrum must stay in the pack until the referee calls “break”. Penalty for breaking without referee calling break is a “full penalty” (not a differential penalty) to the non-offending team at the scrum mark. The team can kick for goal, or have the option to pack a scrum instead.
  • 20/40 Rule – This rule is the reverse of 40/20 rule. Kick must be taken in the 20m zone and finds touch in the 40m zone.
  • Two (2) Points Field Goal – Two points will be awarded for a field goal kicked during general play. The kick must be taken from outside the 40m.
  • Tackle Restart:
    – Restart tackle count for all ruck infringements.
    – Restart tackle count for all marker infringements.
    – Restart tackle count for all 10m infringements.
    – If a team causes three consecutive tackle restarts in the same set, the offending player on the third tackle restart shall be sin-binned.
  • Backs offside at scrum – If any backline players are found offside at a scrum, the non-offending team shall restart play with a zero-tackle count.

It is important to note that there are slight differences between the IRL rules and the rules of Australia’s National Rugby League.
International Tests, including World Cups are played under IRL laws, whilst the SP Hunters play under the NRL rules because they participate in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup.
PNGRFL, as a member of the IRL, must conform to its rules, however, any rules adopted must be ratified by PNGRFL. PNGRFL, in exercising its authority, has decided to adopt the new rules.
PNGRFL will work with all member associations and stakeholders to ensure a smooth and effective the transition into the new rules.
We believe this new rule changes will enable the game in PNG to conform to international standards and bring our game to a new and exciting level. Until next week, may the grace, love and care of our Good Lord be with you.