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The basics of Rugby League

10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

The aim of the game is simple: score more points than the other team. This applies to most sports really.

Each team is given six tackles or chances to score.

If, after six tackles, they have not scored, the ball is handed over to the other team who then get the chance to score with their six tackles.

But rugby league is slightly more complicated than this.


A game of rugby league consists of two halves of 40 minutes, with injury time added on at the end of each half.

In between the two halves, there is a 10-minute break after which both teams change ends and attack the half they were defending.

A hooter or whistle will indicate the start and finish of the half.

Play is only allowed to continue after the whistle or hooter sounds if the ball is still in play.

The half will immediately end once a tackle is made or the ball goes over the sideline or dead ball line (the furthest line at the end of both ends).

However, time can be extended for a penalty kick or a kick at goal.

In that case, the half will end when the next ball goes out of play or a tackle has been made.


Rugby league is played with an oval shaped ball, which can be found in many sizes.


Kick off

Rugby league is played on a pitch which is no more than 100m in length and 68m in width.
The pitch is covered in several markings to indicate the different lines in the game. You have lines for the 10 m, 20m, 30m, 40,  goal lines, dead lines half-way line.

The three most important lines are the goal lines, deadlines and the half-way line.

There are also several 10m markings from the touchline on the pitch to show where scrums and re-starts should be taken. 


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How to score points

10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

There are four ways to score in rugby league:

Try – four points

A try is worth four points. A try is awarded when a player grounds the ball inside the opposition’s in-goal area between the try line and the dead ball line. It is very important to have downward pressure on the ball, because if you don’t have control of it (say you lose it), the try will not be awarded.

Tries can be both spectacular and ordinary. However, it is important to make sure you know how to ground the ball. If you are running towards the try line, it is good to know how you should ground the ball. The best idea is to put the ball down with both hands. If this is not possible, try using one hand.

You may be tackled as you reach the try line. If you can reach out and put the ball over the try line before both your elbows hit the ground, a try will be awarded. A try will not be awarded if you make another attempt at scoring after both elbows have hit the ground. This is called “double movement”.

However, if momentum carries you over the try line after being tackled, a try will be awarded.

Look at the pictures below to see how tries are scored:


Goal kick – two points

A team is awarded a goal kick after a try has been scored. The team has the chance to "convert" the kick at goal for two further points. The kick is taken from a point level with where the try was scored.  A mound or kicking tee are usually used.The kick is successful if the ball goes between the opposition's goalposts and above the crossbar. In order to kick a goal, you must try and get your kicking foot underneath the ball. Follow through with your kicking leg after you have finished to gain more distance. If you fail to kick the ball at the bottom, the ball will probably not go very high. 


Penalty goal – two points

The referee will award a penalty when an offence has occurred. If the team who got penalty wants to take a kick for goal, they can.  The idea is the same as a goal kick, to go between the opponent’s cross bar and between the goal posts.


Drop goal – one point

A drop goal can be a spectacular way of scoring. If successful it will add one point to a team's score. A drop goal is scored when a player kicks the ball from hand through the opposition's goal posts, above the crossbar. However, the ball must touch the ground between being dropped and kicked.

Below is a guide to make a drop kick. Hold the ball in front of you, one hand on each side and the ball is upright. Look at the ball and gently drop it. As it reaches the ground, try getting your foot underneath the ball. If you get your foot underneath the ball, the ball should go high and far, although this is depending on how hard you kick it. Follow through with your kicking leg to make it go further. 


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Holding and passing the ball – Ball Handling

10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

Rugby League differs to football. In football, you make progress by kicking the ball with your foot/feet. You are not allowed to hold or pass the ball with your hands in football, unless you are a goalkeeper. However, the goalkeeper is restricted to an area of the field, where he can use his hands to pass or hold the ball.

In Rugby League, you can kick, but most of the time, you will see the players holding and/or passing the ball with their hands.

Holding the ball

When holding the ball, it is important to find a grip which suits you. There are several ways of holding the ball, but you have to find a way which you are comfortable with. When holding the ball, make sure you have a good hold of it and that you will not lose it when running with it.

One way of holding the ball when running, is to hold it (with one or both hands) into your chest. Look at the picture beneath to see how this can be done.

The player holding the ball has a firm grip on the ball. He is holding it with one hand but still is holding it comfortably.

Note: It looks like this player is going to be tackled. Most players bend their backs a little when they are going to get tackled. This is done for several reasons.

– They protect themselves more this way than if they ran upright.
– It can make it difficult for tacklers to tackle you, because you are putting your weight forward and it gives the tacklers a more difficult task.

Being able to hold the ball in rugby league is essential to all players. All players must have good ball handling skills.  When holding the ball, always have it tucked into your chest. Think of it as a valuable possession you do not want to lose.

Some players try to be fancy and not hold the ball into their chest, but they can easily lose the ball if they get tackled. If you have the ball tucked into your chest when you get tackled, you should still be in possession of it.

Passing the ball

Passing skills can not be stressed enough in Rugby League. Good passing can win your team matches.

When passing the ball, make sure that the ball goes BACKWARDS. You are not allowed to throw the ball FORWARDS at any time. Doing so will result in a “FORWARD PASS” and your team will have to hand the ball over to the other side. When you have possession of the ball, treat the ball as the Holy Grail. Make sure it goes BACKWARDS.

When passing the ball, it is important to have a good grip of the ball. Good passes can result in your team scoring a try, bad passes can result in your team losing possession of the ball, especially if the ball goes to ground and the opposition picks it up. First of all, it is important to know who you are going to pass the ball to. Do not pass just for the sake of it. If you don’t need to pass, don’t. It is important to look at the person you are going to pass to. Eye contact and communication are important factors here. Also, make sure the player you are passing to is not a long way away from you. If you are new to the game, get a player to stand behind you (diagonally) and try passing the ball. Many players try to throw long passes. They can work, but it is very risky.

Secondly, it is important to have a good grip. The whole idea is based around passing FOR the player, rather than AT the player.
Hold the ball in two hands with your fingers spread across the seam, with your chest facing forward. Keep your elbows slightly bent at the start of the pass, looking at the receiver to help you deliver an accurate pass. Swing your hands through an arc, keeping your elbows close to your body. Release the ball with a flick of the wrists and fingers.

Follow through with your fingers pointing to the target – chest high in front of the receiver.

This pass was good, but it is important to pass the ball at the player’s chest. As you see, the player catching the ball had to reach over his head to catch it. Try to avoid this. Passing at chest height will make it easier for the catcher to gain control of it. 

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Tackling and playing the ball

10th March 2007 Correspondent 0


Before I tell you about how to tackle, I will tell you what a rugby league tackle is. In rugby league, you have to tackle by using your arms. You may not tackle with your legs, because this will result in a penalty. You can not make a tackle by using both your arms and legs either. Just use your arms!

When tackling, it is important to stop the ball runner from progressing further down the field, or getting a pass away to another player. When tackling, try to put the ball runner on his back. This will mean you will land on top of him, and this is a much better result for you than if he falls on you when you tackle him. If you cant put the ball runner on his back (he might be too heavy), try stop his progress. If you can make him stop running, a tackle has been made When he cant run any further, the referee will yell “HELD”, which is the same as a tackle, only he is not on the ground.

When the offensive team has the ball, they have 6 tackles (or chances if you wish) to get over the opponent’s try line. A chance is used up when one of the players (who has the ball) gets tackled. You cannot tackle a player without the ball. If the offensive team cannot score after they have used up their chances, the other team gets the ball. On the last tackle (after 5 chances have been used), most teams will kick the ball down the field, so it will be harder for the other team to score. Just think of it. If you are on your last tackle on your 40 metre line, would you rather get tackled there on the last tackle or kick it down to the opponent’s 10 metre line and tackle the player on their 20 metre line? I will tell you more about kicking in general play in the kicking section.

By the way, high tackles (above the shoulder) are not allowed.

How to tackle

Some people who are new to rugby league may not like the idea of tackling. They might either be scared, not have enough confidence or just don’t know much about tackling. Either way, it is good to watch others tackle before you do it. Also, you should be given proper instructions on how to tackle before you make one yourself. A good way of learning how to tackle is to get an instructor or someone with good tackling knowledge to stand still and lead you through the tackling procedures. When you have mastered this, get the instructor to take steps towards you and tackle him. Then let him jog, and run fast when you are ready for it.

When tackling, it is essential you know who you are going to tackle. If you dont know who you are going to tackle, the chances of you making the tackle will be slim. When you see someone running towards you slowly or fast, you have to remember these following things.

When tackling, do not, and I repeat, do not get your head between the legs of the ball runner. This can really injure you. I have seen players go in with their head into the ball runner’s legs and come off second best. This is the first rule.

Second rule: Decide which side you want to stand on when you are going to tackle the player. If you choose the correct side, the tackle will become better. But how do I know which side to tackle? The answer is simple. Choose which shoulder is closest to the player. If he is running to the left side of you, hit with the left shoulder.

Third rule. Bend your back. You cannot make a low tackle without bending, unless you are 5’5 tackling someone 7’0! When tackling someone, bend down, hit him with your shoulder and put your head to the outside of the leg, not inside. If you put it in the inside (between the legs) you will probably get really hurt, as I mentioned before).

Once you have done all this, put both arms around the players legs to stop progress. Now you know a little about how to tackle. However, even though you know the theory of tackling, doesn’t mean you know how to do it in practice. Therefore, you should not go out and try to tackle someone running at you for the first time. Practice all these drills before making a complete tackle.

Different tackle types

There are several ways of tackling, some more genius and creative than others, but there are 3 main tackling types. You have already read about one of them. This is called “The front on tackle”, a tackle being made in front of the player. The other two are called “The side on tackle” and “The tackle from behind”. Both methods will be explained underneath.

– The side on tackle: This is made when you tackle someone from either side. When you go to make a tackle, remember not to get your head between the player’s legs. You could get concussed. But how do I know which shoulder to hit with, you say? Simple. If his left leg is closest you (this means the right leg is on the other side), hit him with your left shoulder. Put your head behind his legs as you hit him. Then put your arms around the player and, provided you hit him correctly, he should drop to the ground or stop. If his right leg is closest to you, as in this picture, (this means the left leg is on the other side), hit him with your right shoulder. Put your head behind his legs as you hit him.



– The tackle from behind: This is made when a player has run past you and you have to tackle him from behind. When using this method, you have more freedom when it comes to choosing which side you want your shoulder to make contact with. If you want to make contact with your left shoulder, hit the left thigh and place your head to the outside of the right leg, so you don’t get injured. To make contact with your right shoulder, hit the left thigh and place your head to the outside of the left leg, so you dont get injured.

Playing the ball

When a tackled player has been tackled, he has to get to his feet. That means the tackler has to let him go. The player with the ball will stand up and face towards the try line, the direction in which he is running. After getting up, the player will put the ball down on the ground and roll it back with one of his feet. Hold the ball with one hand and roll it back with the corresponding foot. There will be a player who stands behind you, waiting to pick up the ball. He can then either run himself or pass it to another player. This is how play is restarted. 


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Kicking out of play and scrums

10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

When kicking the ball, you must remember that you can kick it whenever you want. You dont have to kick it on the last tackle if you dont want to. Some players like to kick early if they see a chance for their players. When kicking the ball, remember that it must bounce inside the field of play if you are going for touch (the sideline). If you kick it and it goes out of play on the full, the other team will get the ball and six tackles from where you kicked it. Imagine if you kicked it out on the full from your own 10 metre line! If you kick the ball and it goes to a player who is inside the field of play on the full, the referee wont do anything, as you haven’t broken any rules.

Tactic: If you kick from your own 40 metre line and it bounces into touch inside the opponent’s 20 metre line, you get the ball back. Nice, isn’t it?


Scrums can look funny or strange to people who dont know the game of rugby. But, hopefully, you will gain some knowledge of scrums and their purpose here. But before I tell you what scrums are, I will tell you what makes scrums happen. Scrums happen in the following instances:

– When a player has lost the ball forward, a scrum is placed. However, if the other team picks up the ball before the player who lost it did, the referee rules play on. No scrum is needed.
– When the ball has been kicked out into touch (not on the full)
– When the ball has been thrown forward. If the ball has been thrown forward deliberately, a penalty is awarded against the side who threw the ball.

A scrum consists of all the forwards on the team, plus the scrum half (no. 7). There are 6 forwards, so there will be 12 players in the scrum. The players will bind together in a 3-2-1 combination, as seen underneath.

There are six players here. All players have an important role in the scrum, but the most important player here is the Hooker. Don’t worry about the name, it is not what you think. If the other team lost the ball, kicked the ball into touch or threw the ball forward, you will get the ball in the scrum. The scrum half will stand on side of the scrum and put it in the middle of the scrum. The Hooker then has to put one of his foot forward and hook the ball back behind, so that it comes behind the no.13. After he has hooked it, the other players in the scrum can help get it back, but they may only use their feet. However, the no.13 can pick up the ball seeing as he is the last player. Usually though, it is the no 7 who will come around and pick it up.

How to bind: The first row, consisting of no 9 (middle), no 10 (left) and no 8 (right) will bind first. No 8 and 10 are called props. They bind on tightly on both sides of the hooker, leaving no gaps between them. They bind tightly together and pack down behind the front row, putting their heads in the gaps between the hooker and the props. The final member is the loose forward. They pack down behind the second row forwards, putting their head in between the two second rows. 


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10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

Offside mostly occurs in rugby league after tackles and at kicks. First, I will explain how you are offside after tackles.

When a player has been tackled, the opposing team must retire 10 metres, except for two players. These 2 players are called markers. They must stand in front of the player playing the ball, but they cant stand next to each other. One player must stand behind the other. All others must retire 10 metres. If a player does not go back 10 metres, the team will be penalised. The team in possession will get 6 new tackles. Imagine getting penalised after tackling the team with the ball 5 times! Or, imagine getting penalised on your own 10 metre line! However, if you are injured and you cant make it back to the 10 metre line, the referee will not penalise you if he sees you are not trying to tackle any players. Usually, the referee will blow time off if he sees you are injured.

Note that the blue team is in possession. The blue player furthest up is playing the ball (although it doesn’t really look like he is doing it). The 2 red players in front are markers (but why they are standing next to each other I cannot comprehend.) The red player furthest back has gone back 10 metres. You can see this because it is 10 metres difference between the marked and unmarked line (on the red side). The player who is offside has not gone back to the marked line, so he is offside. Confusing? When a player is tackled, the referee will tell you how far to get back, so dont worry. Just dont stand in front of him, because you could get penalised!

Offside at kicks

If one of your team mates is performing a kick, it is important you stand level or behind him. If you do not, your side will get penalised. However, there is an exception. You can stand in front of the kicker, but the only ways you cannot be penalised is if you:

– The kicker runs in front of you again
– If an opponent gets the ball, you must stand 10 metres from him (in length, not width).
– Raise your arms and run back to an onside postion (behind the kicker). This tells the referee you have no intention of going after the ball or the player with the ball.

Note that the person in front is offside. 

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10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

There are three restarts in rugby league: On the halfway line, on the 20 metre line (both sides) and on the goal line (drop out)

Play is restarted on the halfway line when a team has scored (try, goal, penalty goal, drop kick). The team that scored will get the ball back, so the opposing team has the kick off. The opposing team must kick the ball at least 10 metres in length. If they fail to do so, they will get penalised, unless the attacking team picks up the ball before they do. Most teams opt to kick way down the ground. If the team kicking the ball kicks the ball out of touch (sideline) on the full, the team who were supposed to get the ball will get a penalty on the halfway line, where the kick was taken. However, if the kicking team kicks it and it bounces into touch first, they get the ball back!

Play is restarted on the 20 metre line when:

•  An attacking player touches the ball before it goes out of play over the dead-ball line, except from a penalty or from a kick-off
•  If a defending player catches a kick from general play from an opponent on the full inside their own in-goal area

Drop out:

A drop out (where the defending team drop the ball and kick it to the attacking team) happens when:

– A player grounds the ball in their own goal area
– While in his own goal area, runs over the sideline or dead ball area (the line behind the goal posts) with the ball
– Bats the ball over the sideline or dead ball area in the own goal area
– A player is tackled in their own goal area

When one of these happens, all the defending players stand on their try line, while the attacking team stand and wait for the ball. Every defending player must stand behind the person who is going to make the drop out. The ball has to go 10 metres. 

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Equipment Guide

10th March 2007 Correspondent 0

There are a lot of equipment you can use in rugby league, but the most important are the boots and the mouth guard. I will talk about everything you can use though.

Skull cap – Often used by forwards who want to protect their heads against heavy tackles. They also use it in scrums to protect their ears from rubbing onto other players. Players in scrums who dont use skull caps, usually front rowers, often get “cauliflower ears”, where the ears get thicker.

Gum shield – Every player needs one. It protects your teeth and gums, plus prevents your jaw from getting injured and getting concussed.

Jersey – Every player needs one. Make sure the one you buy is comfortable. It should also be able to withstand heavy pulling and tugging.

Shorts – Make sure they are not too tight, because you could injure yourself.

Ball – These oval shaped balls come in all sizes, from mini size to mid size to full size. It is important to choose the one that suits your hands. Dont buy one that is too big or too small. Since you have to use your arms to pass in rugby league, it can become hard to pass when it is raining. This will make the ball wet, but during recent times, waterproof materials have made it easier to handle rugby balls.

Boots – These are similar to football boots, but the difference is the high cut designed to give players ankle support. However, some players opt for football boots for extra pace. 

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