NRL kickers don't see two-point drop goals

Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans says he won't be attempting too many two-point field goals in 2021.
Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans says he won't be attempting too many two-point field goals in 2021.

More than half of NRL playmakers say they don't expect the new two-point field goal to have an an impact on games, believing it will suffer the same fate as last year's 20-40 rule.

Rule changes have dominated talk in the lead-up to this year's season, with the majority of the focus on the reduction in scrums and introduction of set restarts for offsides to speed up the game.

They come after last season's return to one referee and implementation of set restarts for ruck infringements, as well as the 20-40 kick that was not successfully pulled off once.

But it is the two-point field goal for those kicks from the beyond the 40-metre line which shapes as the biggest change to the game's fabric in 2021.

Despite several changes in rule applications and interpretations, not since 1983 has the point-scoring system changed in rugby league when tries went from three to four points.

The change revealed in December surprised several players, not least because just one field goal from Michael Morgan was kicked from outside the 40-metre line last year.

In an AAP survey of all 16 clubs' field-goal kickers, Morgan was one of the 10 to players say that the new rule would not be a common tactic across the league and that they had not practised it properly.

Chief among the concern of players is that if the shot misses and goes dead or is caught in goal, a 20-metre tap and seven-tackle set is still gifted to the opposition.

The NRL's leading drop-goal kicker Daly Cherry-Evans is of the same view, with the Manly halfback having slotted more one-pointers than any other current player.

"I don't intend on using it very often," Cherry-Evans said.

"At some stage someone's going to kick one.

"But I can't honestly say that I'm thinking, let's take the two from 40 out with a field goal.

"They're a hard kick.

"It'd be naive to think that at some stage this year someone might win a game off it, I just don't think it's going to happen often."

Even the NRL's own advertising campaign labelled the play impossible this week, noting the strike-rate of field goals kicked from beyond the 40-metre line as just four per cent.

But there is no doubt if pulled off successfully, it can add a surprise element to games.

Nineteen games last year were decided by two points or less, while other straight shooters believe it could shape as a surprise tactic at the end of halves or even in general play.

"I'll definitely have a crack at it," South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds, who sits just one field goal behind Cherry-Evans with 20, said.

"There are parts of the game where you can exploit it and have a crack.

"If there is a point in the game where I feel like momentum is shifting I will have a shot.

"There is a great chance for teams in a certain part of a game where they can have a go at it.

"It's something I've thought about, I've had a chat to the coaching staff about when I can use it.

"They can make it four points from the 50 if you want.

"With a decent wind behind you it wouldn't be too hard.

"It's probably safer than from 30 metres out and it going dead."

Most other changes for the season will go unnoticed but go some way to cleaning up long-held grievances of fans and players.

Referees will closer monitor players breaking from scrums early, and attacking teams will have the option to pack it again if defenders break early.

Breaking early twice in a row will prompt a sin bin.

The bunker will now quickly check all tries after they are awarded with referees to only send four-pointers upstairs if they think it is no try while captain's won't lose their right to challenge again if video evidence is inconclusive.

Handovers will now be awarded for incorrect play-the-balls, while injured players will be forced from the field for two minutes when play is stopped for a trainer to assess them.

Australian Associated Press