The 18th man was knocked back by the NRL commission in 2019 and is no easy in this time around

Cost and “gamesmanship” were among the reasons the introduction of an 18th was knocked back in 2019 and NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley says the code faces similar questions now

A spate of injuries over the weekend has reignited calls for the implementation of the 18th man to cover for concussed players.

The commission will discuss the merits of the rule change at a meeting on Tuesday night.

Annesley can see merit in an 18th man for concussion, but understands why the extra man didn’t receive the green light of approval two years ago.

“It was discussed at the end of 2019 and at that stage it was decided not to proceed and there are a number of factors why,” Annesley said.

“It isn’t just cost; it is also how it would operate and what potential it would create for gamesmanship.

“All these factors and that is why you can’t just say that sounds like a good idea and let’s just do it.

“You have to look for unintended consequences as well and the commission has to consider all those factors.

In-game injuries (non-concussion) reported at the end of each round over the past 4 years (numbers via @FOXNRL). Just looking at the early rounds, small sample size for 2021 but not glaring numbers at this stage. Add the 7 concussions to Round 3, a costly weekend for teams pic.twitter.com/7XOSSGxykX

“It is something that needs to be fairly considered and it is purely a decision for the commission. The rules are in place for this year already that any changes to the rules must come via the commission.

“We will provide them with as much information as possible.”

The speed of the game, intensified following key rule changes like six-again, have also prompted clubs and players to suggest the game is too fast.

However, Annesley said the game’s pace is fine based on current statistical evidence.

“On the basis of the stats we have provided so far, there is no significant increase in the metrics that we measure from last year to this year,” he said.

There are some variations game by game and round by round, but year on year at this point we are not seeing significant variations.”

As for injuries, Annesley believes some setbacks are unavoidable in a brutal contact sport like rugby league.

He said the NRL experienced a similar high rate of injuries last season, which created concern, before the rate of injuries decreased.

“We also have to be realistic about this and I don’t think it is arguable that we play the most physical contact sport in the world without protection, in terms of helmets and massive amounts of padding,” he said.

“So, there are going to be injuries, and sometimes they don’t result from contact.

“It is just not possible to eliminate injuries from our game.”

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