An experimental rule will be in place for NRL trial matches including the Charity Shield, which will see differential penalties awarded against players who do not play the ball correctly.
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said referees would be encouraged to strictly police the new interpretations to ensure players were penalised for failing to play the ball correctly.
Mr Greenberg said NRL match officials had worked with the clubs through the pre-season on ensuring their understanding of the change was clear.
“This has been identified as an area which needs to be addressed and there clearly needs to be some increased regulation of the play-the-ball,” Mr Greenberg said.
“We have consulted the coaches and also worked with the clubs over the pre-season to ensure they are ready for the changes.
“It is a relatively minor offence but it is a source of frustration for many and it is clear there needs to be some penalty applied for failing to make a genuine attempt to play the ball.
“We understand how critical penalties can be in the context of a game, but a differential penalty will ensure that referees can apply the rules more vigilantly.”
The success of the change would be assessed before it was decided whether the rule would be adopted in the future.
Trial matches will also include new rules preventing teams from forming a wall to prevent charge-downs from field-goal attempts, ahead of its introduction in the NRL Telstra Premiership.
The rule allows that “if two or more players form a wall (side by side) next to the play the ball and don’t allow the opportunity for a defending player to move directly towards the player in possession, the referee will penalise for obstruction”.
New shot clock timings will also be in place for the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars, this Saturday’s Charity Shield, as well as the Penrith-Parramatta trial match on February 20, ahead of the formal introduction of the technology in Round One.
Following recommendations put to the Competition Committee and the Coaches Conference, the ARL Commission endorsed timings of 35 seconds for scrums and 30 seconds for drop-outs.
Any team which does not pack a scrum or execute a drop-out in the required time will be penalised. Should both teams not pack the team with the loose head and feed will receive the penalty.
All changes will be in place for Saturday night's Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars at Suncorp Stadium.