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ARLC pushed for captain's challenge after fan feedback

Finer details of the captain's general-play challenge system will be finalised in February after NRL head of football Graham Annesley confirmed the change would occur following recommendation from the Australian Rugby League Commission. 

Annesley announced the historic move on Friday among six other changes set to be introduced to the rules for next season following an extensive review with the competition's committee. 

The use of a challenge system looms as the biggest talking point with fears it could see more stoppages in the game. 

Annesley confirmed the ARL Commission pushed for the change without consulting the competition's committee, who included Australian coach Mal Meninga, Ivan Cleary, Paul Green, Michael Ennis (Fox Sports), Clint Newton (RLPA) and between 16-20 senior NRL players.

Annesley indicated the next task was to decide when and how players could challenge a call. 

"The challenge system has come from the Commission," Annesley said on Friday.

"We are working on the details now, the Commission have decided it's an innovation they want to introduce to take pressure off the referees.

"We've been tasked by the Commission to go away and look at exactly what circumstances it can be used in and how it can be used. 

"We come back with a recommendation in February.

Rule changes announcement

"Fans have walked away in the past feeling as though there were errors that affected their team. The Commission is very keen on it from that point of view as an innovation in our game."

Annesley said early indications will see each side having one challenge per game – if successful they will keep their review option. 

While Annesley admitted a team could use their challenge option tactically, he said it would give players an official way of questioning a match official's decision live in play. 

"It's intended to try and capture those obvious errors," Annesley said. 

"If a team decided to use it with a discretionary call by a referee where things are unlikely to have a resolution one way or another or they risk making a wrong challenge they obviously lose it. 

"It's a tactical operation that coaches and players will have to decide how and when to use it. 

"I think it's going to have little difference to stoppages or the elapsed time in games."

The NRL is also set to introduce a mutual infringement rule for accidental play that involves incidents like the ball striking a referee, trainer or pitch invader – more recently in the 2019 Telstra Premiership grand final.

The rule previously required the play to restart through a scrum to the attacking team based on territorial advantage. 

The change will now see the play replayed through a play-the-ball. 

"It's a matter of bringing that rule up to date," Annesley said.

"We think the modern game there's a better way to restart the game when it breaks down."

After receiving feedback from fans on NRL.com in October via a Fan Poll, Annesley said the Commission approved calls for a reduction in time spent on the field for trainers. 

Among the rule changes that were rejected by the Commission included a competition points increase for golden point games. 

The competition committee discussed the possibility of the losing side in a golden point game gaining a point despite losing in extra-time. 

It's been deferred for at least another 12 months. 

"The Commission felt they wanted to spend another season getting broader stakeholder feedback on that," Annesley said. 

"The rules have been around the game since 1908 and they felt a heavy responsibility to take into consideration that fabric of the game. 

"It's not to say it won't happen but it won't in 2020."

Meanwhile, Annesley denied any talk of splitting the game up into quarters after a report emerged earlier in the week.  

"No, that hasn't been on the agenda at all, not through any discussions that I've had at any level of that process – either competition committee, coaches or commission," he said. 

Possible changes around a reduction with the interchange and an 18th man available to play for concussion-related cases were also discussed but have been put on the backburner.