There has always been some conjecture over the interchange rule in the NRL, with fresh talks to overhaul the current interchange system, with Cowboys, QLD and Australian five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, leading the charge.
We have seen the interchange rule change twice – the first time from unlimited interchanges to 12, before the NRL cut down the number of interchanges a team could make to 10, four years ago.
The call from Thurston to cut down the number of interchanges, comes at at time when the NRL is forced to deal with numerous complaints about wrestling tactics, and how they are going to combat them.
Altering the interchange rule in Thurston’s mind, will allow the smaller players to make more of an impact, and allow for more free-flowing football resulting in more points.
“At the moment, if you win the ruck, you usually win the game,” Thurston said.
“If the interchanges came down to eight, you will see the bigger fellas tiring and it would open up the opportunity for the smaller players like me.
“I’m sure the smaller guys in the NRL would agree with me. That (cutting back interchanges) would test the bigger blokes out and that’s how we will see the game open up a bit more.”
Thurston believes that the NRL is ready for another change to the interchange system, with the move designed to test the fitness of current NRL players.
“No doubt there is more wrestling (now),” Thurston said.
“It’s a big part of the game now. All the clubs are hiring wrestling coaches … every year. Everyone is getting bigger and stronger and teams are wrestling to win the ruck. If you control the ruck speed, your defence gets more time to get set.
“Even in attack, if you control the ruck speed by getting quick play-the-balls, you are on top.”
Thurston is not the only one in support of such a move, with NSW Blues coach Ricky Stuart also a fan of changing the interchange rule.
“All this talk about the wrestle has given us a real opportunity to fix some of the problems in the game – and it’s an opportunity we can’t blow,” he said.
“We constantly reward the forwards – through interchange – who nullify the spectacle.”