The push for a compulsory 18th man, who can replace players injured due to foul play, is gathering momentum after Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano's high shot on Parramatta counterpart Fuifui Moimoi.
Moimoi's contribution to Friday's clash lasted exactly 10 seconds, after he was helped from the field following the hit by Kasiano, which was placed on report by the officials.
The tackle will be assessed by the match review committee today, with Kasiano facing a low-grade charge due to the fact that the Eels prop was falling as he was struck.
While Kasiano will now be sweating over his availability for Bulldogs coach Des Hasler's long-awaited return to Brookvale Oval on Friday night, the tackle, and subsequent injury, has reignited debate over whether the ARLC should introduce measures to ensure a victim's team is not disadvantaged. With Moimoi unable to return to the field after the collision, the Eels had just 16 fit players for the rest of the contest.
Even though the Eels were not charged an interchange, as Kasiano was placed on report, the fact that their bench was reduced to just three players severely dented their line-up.
The NRL's competition committee - a panel that includes former and current coaches - has discussed the 18th man option and will consider it again in the next few months.
Last Friday night's clash has given them another example of why the likes of Australian coach Tim Sheens have been pushing the idea. Eels coach Stephen Kearney, who was forced to reconfigure his line-up, called for its introduction after the match.
The ARL Commission's football operations manager Nathan McGuirk said the 18th man option was under consideration. ''It's one of the issues that was flagged by the committee late last year, and it's one they believe had merit,'' McGuirk said yesterday. ''They'll be taking a closer look at it, and that'll happen towards the back end of this year.''
Such a change would not be simple. The committee - which includes commissioner Wayne Pearce, former coaches John Lang and Daniel Anderson, current coaches Brian Smith and Ivan Cleary, as well as the Origin coaches Mal Meninga and Ricky Stuart - would have to consider whether the 18th man would have to replace the injured player immediately. What if a player is injured due to foul play, attempts to play on, but ultimately concedes at half-time?
Working out who should be the designated man would be easier. Many NRL teams already warm up with an extra player in case someone in the original 17 is injured just before kick-off.
''We've got to understand the ramifications around making any significant change, whether it be the implications on the salary cap or the impact it could have on the game,'' McGuirk said. ''We're not rushing into an important decision like this.
''It's something we've just got to put the right processes around. We'll see how it comes out, once we have a look at it at the committee level, then we'll speak to the clubs. Only then would we be looking to make any formal recommendations.''
Despite the doubts hanging over Kasiano's availability for Friday's grudge match, the Bulldogs were installed as the new competition favourites by TAB Sportsbet yesterday. Following their seventh consecutive victory on Friday, and Melbourne's loss to North Queensland on Saturday night, the Bulldogs were posted as $4 favourites to win the premiership.
- Sydney Morning Herald
- Sydney Morning Herald