Obstructing Defenders Is Not Allowed In Rugby League

An attacking player that is not in possession of the ball is not allowed to obstruct a defender. It is a really, really simple rule that has been over complicated. Do you know who is to blame for that?


You see for some reason when rules come up for review in Rugby League, we go and ask the people that want to break all of those rules what they would like to see changed.

When Daniel Anderson was named referees boss he came up with the brilliant idea that some rules in Rugby League relied on a certain level of common sense. When the time comes to take them from the rule book and apply them to a real game situation, you need to use common sense.

Coaches loved it! Finally we have some clear cut rules that would get back to the basics of the game and move away from the over complicated mess we were starting to move towards under previous referees bosses.

Then something something happened that changed everything….

The common sense rules that were being applied to real game situations started to cost teams tries. Over night, the coaches hated the new rules!

You see, coaches are always right. Just ask them. They don’t lose games because of poor preparation or tactics that were not very good. They looked games because the referee’s screwed them. The rules are wrong. There wasn’t a drinks break. The schedule is too hard. The opposition kept breaking the rules. They had an injury.

It is never, ever the coaches fault!

When it comes to the obstruction rule you find there are a thousand people with a thousand different ideas about what a decoy runner should and should not be allowed to do. The ones that have the loudest voice in this debate hammer on about the obstruction rule every single week.

Phil Gould is one of the biggest whingers when it comes to the obstruction rule. He has been banging on about it for ten years now. He really starts to smash the rule and how it is applied when which every team he has hitched his wagon too at the time has started to have tries disallowed by the interpretation of the rules at that time.

To say the goal posts move depending on the self interests of the whinger at the time is an understatement! Everyone having a say on the obstruction rule has their clubs own interests in mind. Every single one of them!

You need to go back and look at why the rule was originally brought into the game. Its original intent…

Rugby League is a sport where you move the ball up the field through sheer effort. You can only pass the ball backwards. If you through the ball forwards, you lose possession. If you drop the ball forward, you lose possession  The only take ways you can gain field position is by kicking the ball, of tucking it under your arm and trying to break the defensive line.

Very simple.

To go forward, you either need to break tackles of confuse the defense so that you can find space to run up the field. In confusing the defense, you are not allowed to impede the defense in any way from getting to the ball carrier.

The ball carrier can not run behind his team mates. Attacking players can not run into defenders to make holes for the ball carriers either. It is all very simple!

So in 2013 when we see decoy runners charging through and impeding defenders, I have no problem with that being a penalty.

It is all well and good to say that a defender was impeded in the middle of the field and the try was scored out wide, but that one player being knocked out of the defensive line just needs to have a knock on effect of the defends not being able to spread wider by nothing more than an inch for every defender remaining, and that can be enough for a player to have enough space to score in the corner.

If we are all in agreement that Rugby League is a team sport, and that in defense a team much work as a single defensive unit, then we also much accept that punching a hole anywhere in that defensive line with an illegal tactic has some measurable effect on the entire defensive line.

I think the way the referee’s are apply the obstruction rule this season has been fantastic. I have seen coaches whinging that their team has been penalized for players that would be illegal under any interpretation of the rules in any era.

It all comes back to common sense and keeping it simple.

You can not run out of the attacking line and take out a defensive player.

Case closed!

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