Rugby League's Modified Games Program for 6 to 12 year old players will undergo its first substantial law changes since their introduction in 1982.
A full review of Mini Footy (now 6 to 9 years) and Mod League (10 to 12 years) was undertaken by the NRL in partnership with a Sydney University Research Team, where trial data was analysed during the period 2009-2014.
"Feedback from players, coaches, parents and Referees indicated that fun, skill development and increased participation were key factors in recruiting young players and then retaining them in the game for longer," said NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg.
Experimental laws were trialed across Australia over the five years resulting in changes to commence in 2015. These include:
• the elimination of scrums in the Modified Games;
• the clarification of the place / tap kick re-start to the non-scoring team across the 6 – 12 year age group;
• the standardisation of the Zero Tackle across "the whole of game";
• the elimination of conversion attempts in the 6- and 7-year age groups to generate more performance time in these formative years;
• the introduction of a "Chance" rule in the Under 6s; and,
• a "Two Pass Variation" law for Mod League participants.
"The main objective in changing some of the laws was to encourage greater participation by all players on the field, and promoting more "ball in hand" time so that players enjoy their Rugby League experience more," stated Peter Corcoran OAM, originator of the Modified Games.
"The two pass variation allows for increased decision-making by pivotal attacking players, with more skillful play coming as a result of increased time with the ball in their hands encouraging those fundamental skills of passing, catching, kicking and evasion."
Players at Acting Halfback (dummy half) and First Receiver will wear special vests in Mod League to allow them to run with the ball and be tackled without having to hand the ball over to the opposing team, as has been the case previously. The idea is to create heightened decision-making by these pivotal members of both teams.
New players to Mini Footy at the introductory Under 6s will be given up to four "chances" to grow their confidence as they learn the game.
A knock-on or forward pass will be called a "chance" by the referee rather than order a handover. This will take pressure off our youngest players, eliminate the distress or embarrassment sometimes occasioned by simple errors and, consequently, encourage greater involvement.
"Essentially, all of the changes have been made with our youngest players' safety and development as priorities. It's all about more fun, more involvement, and an opportunity to promote better technical and tactical skill," Mr. Greenberg said.
The changes can be viewed at www.playnrl.com
This article first appeared on NRL.com