$2,000 fines for slow pokes

The NRL will put the boot into the tardy goal kickers this season, today announcing that clubs would be slapped with fines of $2,000 and above each time a conversion or penalty takes more than 90 seconds to complete.

The League?s Chief Operating Officer Greame Annesley admitted the radical introduction of a shot clock was made in response to complaints generated over slow kickers late last season.

"This was an area that caused considerable debate among fans and club personnel in 2003 and the NRL wants to ensure that fans are getting to see a full game of Rugby League action each weekend,? he said. ? "If players are allowed to take two, three, and four minutes a kick, and there are four or five goals in a match, then there is a lot of football the fans won't get to see.?

Under the new rule, which takes effect at next month?s trials and will continue throughout the premiership, clubs ? as opposed to kickers found guilty of deliberate time wasting ? will be liable for $2,000 for a first offence. Larger penalties may apply to subsequent and consistent transgressions.

The shot clock will commence ticking immediately after a try is awarded, or in the case of a penalty, as soon as the whistle is blown. Annesley said referees would have the discretion to call time off during a kicker?s preparation if ?appropriate?.

No on-field sanctions will apply if a kicker fails to strike the ball within 90 seconds. Instead a post game statistical analysis will be conducted to investigate whether the circumstances warrant the issue of a breach penalty.

"Naturally, the NRL will consider unusual circumstances (eg. extreme weather conditions) prior to any decision to breach a club under this policy," Annesley said.

The former referee revealed the time limit was arrived at after a panel of present day whistleblowers examined footage of goal kickers during 2003. He indicated the League would be open to alter the 90 second ?time standard? if experience proves it to be inappropriate.

The NRL also announced changes to rules governing the coin toss and in-goal hold-ups for 2004.

Rather than the team that wins the toss automatically receiving the ball in addition to the choice of which direction to run, captains who correctly call the toss will have to decide which they would prefer.

Brave goal line defence has also been rewarded, with teams that manage to prevent their opponents from grounding the ball over try line no longer subject to an almost inevitable repeat set of defence from the resultant attacking feed into a 10-metre scrum.

Commencing this year, players who are help up in goal will be made to play the ball 10 metres from the line with no renewal of the current set of six.