Storm interchange play loophole OK: NRL

Graham Annesley says NRL teams are entitled to use a free interchange after foul play.
Graham Annesley says NRL teams are entitled to use a free interchange after foul play.

The NRL says it has no issue with Melbourne using a loophole to gain a free interchange in their win over the Sydney Roosters, declaring it within the rules.

Cameron Munster raised eyebrows when he briefly left the field on Friday night after being hit high by Victor Radley, before returning seconds later.

In the interaction, Munster was replaced by Nelson Asofa-Solomona before going back on 23 seconds later for Christian Welch in a clear forwards swap.

Under NRL rules, teams are entitled to two free interchanges when a player is victim to reportable foul play so they can be brought off the field, checked, and put back on.

But the NRL's head of football Graham Annesley said he had no issue with the use of the rule, given it acted as a deterrent for committing foul play.

"What the Storm did in relation to that rule was legitimately within the rules," Annesley said.

"I can see that there's a another argument to say if you're not actually off the field for very long, should you still get that free interchange?

"If you look at it from the point of view that it's intended to disincentivise foul play (it works).

"Because not only might you be put on report, sin-binned or sent off. But you also potentially concede free interchange."

While the Storm incident captured the attention of critics, it's understood it's not rare for the loophole to be used.

Valentine Holmes left the field for 40 seconds after being hit high by Jack Hetherington on Sunday, in what was a clear bid for a free interchange for North Queensland.

In turn, it allowed the Cowboys to swap Coen Hess and Francis Molo without using one of their eight interchanges.

Meanwhile Annesley also admitted his referees had erred in not awarding Canterbury a scrum after Molo knocked on from a kick-off return with the score 12-6 in favour of the Cowboys on Sunday.

The Cowboys eventually won the match 30-18, with a late try to Mitch Dunn sealing the game.

Australian Associated Press