NRL 2024: Penrith Panthers’ blocking tactics cleared, sparking a fierce debate

Paul Kent has blasted the NRL for allowing the Panthers to get away with new blocking tactics to protect Nathan Cleary and their kickers on fifth tackles.

The NRL opted to give the all clear to new tactics introduced by the Panthers, where dummyhalf Mitch Kenny runs across the field after passing to Cleary on the fifth tackle as a means to disrupt opposition players trying to put pressure on the kicker.

The NRL has clamped down on blocking tactics in 2024, but it appears the Panthers have found a loophole where the dummyhalf simply turns his back and gets in the way.

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“Mitch Kenny, his tactics out of dummyhalf, he’s blocking the kick for Cleary, as you can see, he’s passing the ball and then he’s taking off in the direction to take out the marker so they can’t put pressure on Cleary,” Braith Anasta explained on NRL 360.

“I think it’s smart, I think he’s just using the rules to his advantage. I don’t have a problem with that.”

However, Gorden Tallis believes while it is smart coaching it is still against the rules.

“It’s very clever, but it is still blocking,” Tallis said.

Kent believes the NRL have shot themselves in the foot by clearing the tactics because every NRL team will now follow Penrith’s lead.

“They’ve created a rod for their own back here the NRL,” Kent said. “Because in rugby league, someone gets a cough, we’ve all got a cold.

“They’ll all be doing it this weekend and what’ll end up happening is, I know Annesley says they don’t change direction.

“Mitch Kenny and every other dummyhalf in the game is smart. You watch he does change position here a little bit.

“You’re watching him, he comes in, he just circles to his left a little bit. He knows the line that the markers are going to run to get to the halfback.

“It’s not hard to figure out, this is where he starts. Even when you turn your back, you know where the starting point is for the marker and you know where the halfback’s going.

“You know the line that the marker’s going to run. They’re all going to be doing it this weekend.

“Now, if you’re going to sit there and you’re going to get rid of the front-rowers standing there as blockers, bring in a rule to do that and then allow this to happen, well, it’s just moronic.”

Anasta questioned Kent how the NRL can police the tactic, which sparked a fiery debate.

“How do you police it? How do you adjudicate it?” Anasta asked.

“He is allowed to follow after he passes the ball,” James Hooper said.

“Okay when else does Mitch Kenny follow after he passes the ball?” Kent fired back.

“He only does it on tackle five when he is passing to the kicker. He doesn’t do it every tackle.”

“So how do you police it?” Hooper asked.

“You just penalise him for it,” Kent said.

“You just say the dummyhalf tackle five you are not allowed to leave the ruck and run out in that line.”

“But they’ve given it the all clear today,” Anasta said.

“Well, that’s what I said, they’ve created a rod for their own back because this weekend you’ll get 16 teams all doing it,” Kent said.

However, Hooper believes the Panthers should be commended for their smart coaching.

“It is an example of smart coaching because they brought in the new rule and Ivan Cleary and his staff have clearly looked at it and gone, ‘OK, well hang on let’s tweak this’,” Hooper said..

“Mitch when you pass on the fifth tackle just follow the trajectory of the ball.”

However, Kent believes the NRL’s lack of a stance on the tactics will simply lead to copycats amongst the other NRL teams.

“Yeah, and this weekend, 15 other coaches will say, let’s do it as well,” Kent said.

“And then what will happen is in a week or two or three or four? What’s the difference between that and escorting off a kick?

“When you sit there and a big kick goes up and the centres go down and they protect the fullback there.

“I know they’ll argue they changed their line, but you’re going to see guys slightly change their line here. It’ll turn in to an absolute dog’s breakfast this.”

Originally published as Debate rages as NRL clear Panthers’ blocking tactics loophole

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