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Stat Attack: 242 fewer penalties lets stars loose

Running rugby league is on its way back with a staggering 242 fewer penalties blown across the start of 2019 compared to this time last year.

A total of 473 penalties have been awarded in the first five weeks of this season, a 33% decrease from the 715 infringements picked up by round six in 2018.

As a result, new NRL head of football Graham Annesley's bid to reduce "dead ball time" in the game has resulted in the ball being in play 54 minutes and 23 seconds per game this year.

Refs' Bunker referrals have risen by just over two decisions per round, but the time taken to make a ruling by video officials has dropped significantly – from a 2018 average of 69 seconds to 43 seconds.

In all, fans are getting an extra 1 minute and 15 seconds of game time – with an extra three sets of six a game, 16 more tries and overall more expansive play the result.

Creative types have always dominated the Dally M voting but the likes of Cameron Munster (11 points), James Tedesco (nine) Luke Keary (seven), Robbie Farah (six) and Cody Walker (five) are flourishing with defensive lines stretched more and the bodies in them running for longer.