Kalyn Ponga says it’s only a matter of time until NRL teams figure out how to fully exploit the new scrum rules in 2020 which allows the attacking team to move the play across the field.
One of new rule interpretations for this season is attacking teams now have the chance to tell the referee they’d like to move the scrum to either centre of the field, 20 metres in or 10m in from the sideline.
During Saturday night’s All Stars clash on the Gold Coast both the Indigenous and Maori teams moved the scrum to the midfield every time, setting up a three-on-three split of defenders either side of the scrum to try to attack.
Ponga said NRL teams would find ways to capitalise on the attacking opportunity but said it would be difficult in the early rounds as teams would break early from scrums in readiness for quick attacks.
"I think teams will figure out a way to utilise it to the full potential," Ponga said.
"I don’t know if it’s that great, it’s good if you want to get momentum but people just break from the scrum quickly so it’s hard to create that overlap.
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"It’s a new thing and anything new in the game is going to take a while to master I guess."
For attack-minded teams willing to risk it all, it creates a chance to come up with set plays.
The Indigenous team almost turned a midfield scrum into four points when Jack Wighton kicked from the scrum win.
Flying winger Josh Addo-Carr looked certain to win the foot race to the ball only for Maori halfback, and his own Melbourne Storm teammate Jahrome Hughes, to commit a professional foul by taking him out in the chase.
Maori five-eighth Kodi Nikorima loved the concept and can see it having a positive impact on the way teams approach scrums in 2020.
"I love it - we were actually practising it and we sort of had a plan," Nikorima said.
"We always went to the middle and we were defending with three and three and then trying to create the extra number with Kalyn where they had less numbers.
"I definitely love the new rule they’ve brought in and I think teams will definitely exploit it."
Maori coach David Kidwell expects to see teams look at using the 10m scrum as an attacking opportunity this season, leaving almost the entire width of the field for just six men to defend.
Although Warriors forward Adam Blair had a message for any half who was thinking of repeating the Indigenous kick on the first-tackle play.
"You’d be filthy if you were a front-rower or middle and they kick it and you don’t get the ball back because I’d be the first one blowing up that’s for sure," Blair said.
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"It gives those fast guys the opportunity to showcase a bit of skill and gives you an opportunity as a coach to try to come up with some strategies around those things.
"It makes it a bit fun every time, rather than just hitting the ball up off a scrum and laying the platform you may as well give it a crack and have a go when you’ve got guy like Kalyn Ponga out there or the Foxx, if you put a kick in for him, really quick guys with skill who can do that stuff why not do it."
Another rule change used in the All Stars clash was the captain’s challenge. While Blair used his for an unsuccessful appeal on a Kenny Bromwich knock-on, Indigenous skipper Joel Thompson forgot to use his at any point.
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While it may take some adjustment from the players, both captains could see merit in its use if given the green light for the NRL season proper.
The NRL will trial the concept in this Saturday’s Charity Shield before the ARL Commission make a final decision for the 2020 season.
"You’re putting a lot of trust in your players if you’re captain because you don’t get enough time to look up at the screen," Blair said.