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NRL players clean up act on field as match review committee slashes charges in half

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The NRL's sometimes bad boys off the field are turning into choirboys on it with a staggering reduction in the amount of players charged for on-field indiscretions.

The match review committee has slashed by almost two-thirds the amount of players it has charged in the first 10 rounds of the competition as opposed to the corresponding period in 2015.

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And the number has halved from last year with an average of just 3.2 charges being doled out after each round in 2017 in comparison to 6.5 for the same period last year.

It has significantly reduced the amount of times the NRL judiciary has convened this season with players missing fewer games through suspension than at any other time in recent memory.

A tweak to the interpretation of the shoulder charge rule means charges for the controversial defensive technique have increased this season, the only one of its kind as rates of high tackles, dangerous throws, crusher tackles, tripping and contact with match officials have all fallen in 2017.

It has produced arguably the cleanest on-field product for many years on the eve of the State of Origin series.


"Clearly we are encouraged by these figures," NRL head of football Brian Canavan said.

"There may be a number of reasons for the downward trend in charges; from the changes we made to the match review and judiciary processes leading into the 2017 season to the continuing education we give the players on an annual basis.

"This is now the fourth year we have gone out to all clubs and educated them on the process – as well as what does and does not constitute a charge – and they continue to respond well.

"We are still not yet halfway through the season and it is always difficult to base definitive figures on only a portion of the season, but we certainly hope this trend continues.

"It's important to also acknowledge our coaches and players who have been most understanding of and compliant with the revised rules."

NRL players have missed just 26 matches through suspension in the opening 10 rounds of the season – a figure inflated by three Rabbitohs players serving a total of 11 games on the sidelines after their spiteful win over the Knights earlier in the season.

George Burgess' subsequent four-match sanction for a shoulder charge on Anthony Milford in the controversial one-point loss to the Broncos means South Sydney have accounted for more than half of the total NRL bans this season.

But it is still a long way from previous years when players spent a cumulative 33 matches on the sidelines in the opening 10 rounds of last season and a 69 for the same time in 2015.

The work of former NRL consultant and Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary, who undertook an overhaul of the match review committee process over summer, can partly take responsibility for the reduction.

Cleary's campaign to introduce fines for minor offences rather than sanctions – such as the one that delayed Wade Graham's State of Origin debut last season – has resulted in monetary penalties being dished out on five occasions this season rather than players risking suspension.

MATCH REVIEW COMMITTEE CHARGES (first 10 rounds of season)

2015 - 82

2016 - 65

2017 - 32

NUMBER OF GAMES SERVED IN SUSPENSIONS (first 10 rounds of season)

2015 - 69

2016 - 33

2017 - 26


Down: high tackles, dangerous throws, crusher tackles, tripping, contact with match officials.

Up: shoulder charges.