A Beginner’s Guide To The NRL

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Rugby League has long been one of the most popular sports in Australia. As the major professional league in the country and one of the pre-eminent on a global scale, the NRL unsurprisingly has a passionate supporter base. The best NRL teams can attract upwards of 20,000 fans through the gates each week. Although if you aren’t as familiar with the sport, we’re going to talk you through all you need to know in this NRL for beginners guide. 

The Fundamentals Of The NRL

Let’s begin with the fundamentals. NRL is played on a rectangular field. The main playing area measures 100 meters in length and 68 meters in width, with two goalposts at each end. At both ends of the field is an extra eight meters of what’s known as the ‘in-goal area’ — more on exactly what that is later.

the nrl
The NRL

Each of the two teams can have 13 players on the field, with four more on the interchange. The match duration lasts 80 minutes, split into two halves, and each side is allowed to make eight interchanges.

What Are The Basic Rules Of The NRL?

The aim of the game is simple – get the ball into your aforementioned ‘in-goal area’ and touch it onto the ground. This refers to a try and rewards you with four points. After you score a try, your team then gets to have a shot at a ‘conversion’. This basically means that a pre-determined kicker attempts to kick the ball through the goalposts. If successful, two more points will be awarded to the team. The conversion attempt is taken from whatever distance the kicker determines but has to be in line with where the try was scored. This means if you can achieve the try in the middle of the in-goal area, the conversion is very straightforward. Still, if it’s out near the sidelines, it’s a lot more difficult.

Teams reach the in-goal area by running with the ball and passing it to one another, but those passes need to go backward and not in the same direction as your team’s goals. The defensive team thus has one goal — tackle and prevents the attacking team from getting past their line of defense. 

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Difference Between Rugby Union And NRL

The area in which NRL differs most drastically from Rugby Union is a tackle count. Unlike in Rugby Union, NRL teams only have a ‘set’ of six tackles to attempt to score. If a team is tackled six times in succession, the ball is handed to the other team in the same spot as that sixth tackle. As a result, teams generally kick the ball forward after five tackles. Usually conceding possession in doing so but gaining ground simultaneously.

difference between the two
Difference Between The Two

Another difference between the NRL and Rugby Union is what happens after each of these tackles. In the NRL, the defending players must get off the player with the ball once a tackle is complete, and all but two defenders must retreat to at least ten meters from the ball. All offensive players must also revert to their defensive side of the ball. The player with the ball then ‘plays the ball,’ which essentially refers to rolling it back to a teammate. Post this, point play recommences.

Several other rules come into effect at various points throughout an NRL game. From the knock-on through to the 40-20 rule and goal-line drop-outs. Each of these plays an essential role in the game. But the above covers all of the basics that you need to handle to follow, understand and enjoy the game. 

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