NRL insist obstruction law is not black and white after Brisbane controversy

Graham Annesley has highlighted there is no black and white rule for obstruction calls after Adam Reynolds questioned a decision from the bunker during Brisbane’s 28-10 win over Newcastle Knights.

“Are we playing by the rules or are we not playing by the rules?” the halfback asked the umpire after feeling hampered in the build-up to a Newcastle try.

In good field position, the Knights shifted the ball to the left, with Anthony Milford cutting into the defensive line before firing a pass to his partner Adam Clune. The No. 7 leveled up the attack slightly, then played it back to Bradman Best.

The center captured the ball and aimed for the line as Brodie Jones’ lead had occupied two defenders for him.

In his attempt to slide over on defense, Reynolds made contact with Jones and called for a penalty when he saw Best break through and eventually plant the ball down for a four-pointer.

The Broncos captain appealed to the umpire for being denied an opportunity to make a tackle, but his appeal was dismissed by the bunker when they allowed the attempt.

“There have been indications that this is a black and white decision, but it’s not a black and white decision,” Annesley said during his weekly press briefing.

“It has been mentioned that the moment a leading runner hits the outside shoulder of a defender automatically creates an obstacle.

“In many cases it is considered an obstacle that is checked by the bunker. But it’s important that we look at what the rules are when it comes to top runners.”

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Annesley referred to the NRL rulebook when she substantiated how officials assessed disability calls based on a number of factors.

He used three rules in particular to defend Bunker’s decision in awarding the try.

Signs of an obstacle include:

  • block or flat runner [who do not receive the ball] must not stop in the middle of the defensive line
  • block or flat runner [who do not receive the ball] must not start [chest or outside shoulder of] defender and get in touch
  • The Referee or Review Officials may determine the significance of contact initiated by block or flat runners to prevent a defender from engaging in a try-scoring game

Annesley pointed out that the weekend’s first indicator was irrelevant in the case of Jones running through the defensive line.

He acknowledged that the second case could be applied to the Reynolds incident.

However, it was the third indicator that Annesley used the most during his explanation. He claimed the bunker ruled the contact was insignificant enough to award the try, although the Brisbane halfback was hit in the outside shoulder while defending down the line.

“Why do they have this discretion?” Annesley asked while discussing how the bunker could determine the importance of a lead runner’s contact and whether or not it had an impact on the game.

“They didn’t have it until a few years ago when it was very black and white.

“But then we got what a lot of people thought was ridiculous, a leading runner making contact with a defender who had absolutely no chance of playing a role in defending the try.

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“Everybody exploded and said … ‘It’s too black and white and there has to be some discretion.’

“Well, in this case, it was the bunker’s discretion to decide how Adam Reynolds would play no role in stopping the attempt. And so the attempt was awarded.

“Whether people will look at this assessment of the bunker and agree with it is a matter of personal opinion. But that’s the rule. It’s not about it being all black and white.”

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