By SAM DEBENHAM
THE clubs participating in the growing Group 10 premier league competition will have to put a renewed focus on fitness in 2013 after the Country Rugby League handed down a ruling late last month to restrict all first grade sides to 12 interchanges and four reserves on team benches.
In past seasons all grades have operated with up to six reserves on the bench at any one time as well as unlimited substitutions, but that will no longer be permitted.
The old system will remain in place in Group 10’s lower grades and in the Centennial Coal Cup.
The decision was one of several which raised a few eyebrows, the other one being a blanket decision to make all competitions adopt 10 minutes of golden point football in finals matches where scores are level at full-time.
In the past in both Group 10 and Group 11, deadlocked matches had been sent into 10 minutes each way of normal extra-time.
Such a thing hasn’t been an issue for Group 10 in recent years and perhaps of greater impact will be the new interchange laws, but competition president Linore Zamparini thinks it will have a positive impact.
“I think it is a pretty good idea, I am pretty sure that a few of the teams probably don’t even use 12 changes all up in their games, so for them it won’t have much of an impact,” he said.
“Within Group 10 I think all the clubs are putting a greater emphasis on fitness and this is going to make that aspect even more important.
“I think this ensures that everybody will have more football, you won’t have players running on and off every 10 minutes.
“It will also force the teams to really think about what they’re doing and how they are going to use their players, they will have to be smart about the decisions they make.”
The Group 10 bylaws will retain the rule which allows each team one fresh reserve should they choose to use one.
However, as Zamparini observed, many clubs choose not to simply because that player often gets denied the chance for much game time given that they weren’t part of the first division team.
When the limited interchange rule was introduced at NRL level the general concensus was that it would reduce injuries because players wouldn’t be as fresh for as long and as such, the impact of the collisions would lessen.
“If you’ve got guys working harder on their fitness and getting healthier then that in itself will stop a lot of injury problems,” he said.
A final ruling has yet to be made on the controversial shoulder charge issue, with the CRL not obliged to follow the NRL in outlawing the move.