A new NRL season has brought a new list of introduced rules and for the nib Newcastle Knights, there’s two in particular that the side will be looking to take full advantage of when they meet the Warriors in Round One on Saturday.
The most recent new regulation has been that of the Captain’s Challenge that will see nominated captains hold the ability to challenge a referee’s decision that involves a structured restart of play (eg. penalty, scrum, drop-out, etc).
The new concept was used in both the All Stars match and Charity Shield over the past few weeks but given the freshness of the initiative, you can expect it will take NRL captains a few attempts to become completely familiar with how and when to use the challenge.
While some have criticised the Captain’s Challenge, Knights captain Mitchell Pearce was pleased to hear of its establishment and is eager to put it into action as the season begins.
Pearce: Captain's challenge and Warriors threat
“I think it’s a great concept from the NRL,” Pearce said.
“I’ve been putting a little bit of thought into it. It’s going to be interesting.
“There’s a golden egg there if it’s used the right way.”
No doubt there’ll be multiple instances this weekend across the competition where the rule will be applied and the State of Origin winning halfback admitted he’ll be paying close attention to see how his peers approach it.
“As a captain you’ve got to do your work and observe other captains and the way they’re using it,” he said.
“It’s an opportunist’s game…I’m looking forward to hopefully nailing those moments as well as I can.”
Lee: New kicking rule and defence focus
That’s not the only new law that’s been made official in 2020 as the NRL introduced a change to rule that once allowed defending players to be able to tackle opposition players in mid-air when attempting to catch kicks.
From Round One, players can only tackle those jumping for balls once they hit the ground – a new rule perfect for those towering wingers of the game such as Edrick Lee who stands at almost two metres tall.
Lee managed to score six tries from 14 matches in 2019 and has proven his threatening ability time and time again from underneath the high ball.
The former Indigenous All Star is ready for a big match against the Warriors and is hopeful of being able to manoeuvre the new catching guidelines to benefit the team.
“Hopefully we can utilise the new rules in the game, and hopefully they’re in our favour,” Lee said.
“Not only that, but hopefully with the new scrums as well it allows us to play an attacking plan off the scrum.
“They’re a big pack and a big team…it’ll be a challenge coming up against them first.
“I’m sure the nerves will creep in on Friday and a little bit leading into the game.”
Pearce echoed the thoughts of his winger suggesting that the New Zealand club will pose as much of a first-round challenge than anyone in the league.
The captain is ready to fire though.
“We’re jumping out of our skin and can’t wait to get out there,” Pearce said.
“Every team in the NRL is tough these days, especially in Round One.
“The Warriors have some quality players all across the park and we’ll prep as good as we can.”