History of Rugby League Rules

1895 - The Game of Rugby League was born on 29th August,1895 at an historic meeting at the George Hotel Huddersfield when England's new Northern Union was formed. Traditional rugby rules were adhered to for the first two seasons with the line-outs and eight-man scrummages.

1897 - The Line-out was replaced by a punt kick from touch. All goals were reduced to two points.

1906 - Teams were reduced from 15 to 13 a side and the play the ball was introduced. The scoring system of 2 points for any type of goal and 3 points for a try was adopted for the season 1906-07. During that season the line-out, as played in Union, was also abolished and the ball was brought into play from the sideline by a kick in any direction by a player from the non-offending team.

1907 - Rugby League came into being in Australia in 1907.

 No limit on number of tackles a team can retain possession.
• Scrum formations not regulated (no loose-head rule, numbers in each row not specified, ball permitted to come out from anywhere behind front row). Front rows bind against each other before subsequent rows pack behind.
• Play-the-ball: provided they are onside (no minimum distance specified) all players in vicinity permitted to kick or rake for the ball in any direction.
• Attacking team (the team in the opposition’s half of the field) to put ball into the scrum.
• Scrum feed method unrestricted (spinning and bouncing the ball not illegal).
• Penalty options: drop, place or punt kicks only.
• ‘Fair catch’ rule: catching the ball on the full from an opponent’s kick, knock-on or forward pass earns a ‘free kick’ (can drop or place-kick for goal; ‘tap’ impractical).
• All goals valued at two points. Penalty goals and ‘free kicks’ permitted to be either placed or drop-kicked for goal. All conversions to be place-kicked. ‘Soccer-style’ field goals (kicking a loose or bouncing ball from the ground over the cross-bar on the full) permitted.
• Kicking to touch from penalty results in a scrum (feed given to attacking team).
• Defenders permitted to stand on the ‘mark’ at a penalty or ‘fair catch’. The subsequent kick must go beyond the ‘mark’ for play to continue (‘tap’ impractical).
• Restart of play after unconverted try: drop-kick from inside halfway (ball must cross halfway).
• Kickoff or drop-out crosses touchline on the full: recalled for a scrum (opposing team to feed).
• Restart of play after defending team makes ball dead after carrying, kicking or passing ball into own in-goal: five-yard scrum, with attacking team to feed.
• Restart of play after defender makes ball dead in own in-goal (where opponent kicked or carried ball across the goal-line): 25-yard line drop-out.
• All other significant rules are essentially as per today’s playing laws.
Note on Replacements: A local rule operated in NSW between 1908 and 1925 whereby a replacement player was allowed for an injured player. From 1925 to 1963, no replacements were allowed.

1909 - Maximum of three forwards in front row of the scrum; other rows remain unrestricted.

1920 - Scrum half required to roll ball into scrum.

1922 - Goal from ‘fair catch/mark’ and soccer-style ‘field goal’ abolished.

1925 - A second football provided at the touch-line to eliminate delays during all first-class matches.

1926 - Goal-line drop-out (instead of from the 25-yard line) after defender makes ball dead; play-the-ball modernised - only marker and man playing the ball to be involved in contest for the ball, and marker to keep both feet on ground until ball is dropped or placed.

1930 - Defending halfback to feed scrums, with attacking side having the loose-head; ‘3-2-1’ scrum formation made mandatory.

1932 - Hooker must have both arms over props (loose-arm rule); penalty extended to include optional scrum (instead of ‘free kick’).

1948 - Front rows cannot pack against each other until ordered by referee.

1951 - Five-yard ruck rule introduced (for one season only); previously there had been a ‘no-yard’ ruck rule.

1952 - No-yard ruck rule reinstated; dummy-half and second-marker to stand one yard behind the two men at the play-the-ball.

1954 - Tap penalty introduced, with offending team to retire 10 yards.

1956 - Three-yard ruck rule, with no minimum distance for dummy-half and second-marker.

1959 - Abolition of tap penalty.

1961 - Dummy-half caught with ball resulted in a scrum.

1963 - Reinstatement of unrestricted dummy-half runs; ball from scrum to come out from behind the second-rowers; non-offending team given feed and loose-head for scrum from penalties (including after kick to touch); teams can replace a maximum of two injured players up to and including halftime.

1964 - Scrums minimum of 10 yards from goal-line; place kickoff from halfway line to restart play after unconverted try; penalty at halfway if kickoff out on the full.

1966 - Five-yard ruck rule implemented.

1967 - Four-tackle rule replaced unlimited tackles; tap penalty reintroduced; scrum replaced by tap kick for restart after penalty kick into touch.

1968 - Restart after attacking team makes ball dead: 25-yard optional kick.

1969 - Front row to pack ‘square’ in the scrums.

1970 - Two replacements for injured players allowed at any time during a game, provided those replacements had played at least half of a lower-grade game.

1971 - Value of field goal reduced from two points to one, and six-tackle rule introduced.

1981 - ‘Sin-bin’ and differential scrum penalty introduced; four replacements allowed.

1982 - Scrum feed and loose-head given to non-offending team.

1983 - Value of try increased to four points; handover after sixth tackle if caught in possession; drop out for kickoffs going dead (instead of a 22m tap).

1986 - Twenty-metre restart when ball caught on full in in-goal.

1987 - ‘Head-bin’ introduced (players suffering minor head injuries allowed to return to the field of play after 10 minutes without affecting team’s quota of replacements).

1988 - Two fresh reserves allowed.

1990 - In-goal touch judges used in finals series.

1991 - Interchange rule introduced, allowing four players (two of whom could be fresh reserves and two of whom must have played half a game in the preceding Reserve Grade or President’s Cup) unlimited interchanges throughout a match. This rule was brought in primarily to cut down the risk of the spread of blood-borne diseases. By April an angry public reaction forced a modification which provided for a maximum of  four players to be available for a total of six interchanges in a match. Players sent to the ‘blood-bin’ did not count among these six interchanges.

1993 - Ten-metre rule introduced mid-season.

1996 - Unlimited interchange reintroduced.

1997 Rule Changes - Striking in the play-the-ball banned; no minimum distance for attacking team behind dummy-half; ‘40/20’ rule introduced; new guidelines introduced to combat ‘dangerous throws’.

1998 - ‘Zero tackle’ introduced; video referee introduced.

2001 Rule Changes - Limited interchange rule reintroduced allowing four replacements and a maximum of 12 interchanges.

2003 - The Golden Point introduced to decide drawn games

2004 Rule Changes - Attacking player held up in-goal: play-the-ball 10 metres from goal-line.

2006 - Tap from penalty kick to be taken 20 metres infield

2007 Rule Changes - Review of on field rule interpretations for Off-side, Play-the-ball, Obstruction, Sin Bin, Interchange/Foul Play

2008 Rule Changes - Reducing the number of interchanges from 12 to 10 a match; Ball stripping permitted if the ball carrier is in the act of trying to ground the ball for a try; Scrapping the grapple/wrestle tackle from the game.

2009 Rule Changes - TWO referees will control every NRL match in 2009.