NRL 101: A Basic Guide to the National Rugby League

Ever talked to a friend or loved one who is an avid fan of rugby? There may be rules and terms that get you confused all the time. For starters, the National Rugby League (NRL) is considered the leading Rugby League competition globally. Each year, the competition embarks on a 4-week finals series where 16 teams play for a total of 24 matches.

Australia’s Rugby League is an 80-minute6 contact sport consisting of 13 players playing in each team. Learn the basics by reading this comprehensive guide and, unknowingly, you might become a fan of rugby yourself. Prepare your game face and start browsing:

How Does Rugby League Work?

The Rugby League is one of the most anticipated and well-loved sports in Australia. Sports competitions such as the NRL and the annual State Origin can divide the whole nation for several weeks.

A full game goes on for 80 minutes but is divided into halves each lasting 40 minutes. Both rugby teams have 13 players playing on the field, while four are on the bench. A team is only allowed to make eight substitutions for the entire match.

Matches like the Knights vs Bulldogs are exciting to watch. Here’s how each team tries to win: To achieve a try, a player has to “ground the ball” or have contact with the ball before going down on the ground or behind the opponent’s goal line. Each try is worth four points. To score an additional two points, a team needs to have a conversion or a successful kick off.

To produce a scoring play, teams are only limited to six tackles. If they fail to do so, possession is transferred over to the opposing team. When tackled, a player has to ‘play the ball’ or pass the ball between their legs to their teammates.

After the match, the winning team is awarded two competition points. The losing team receives none. In case of a draw, each rugby team is awarded one point each. It will be discussed below the specifics of the game’s lines, tackling, penalties, and rules.


Rugby League’s game starts at the ‘halfway line,’ a line placed at the field center. The two competing teams have to throw a coin to decide who gets the first kick at the halfway line. During the second half, the defending team’s turn to kick off at the same line.

There is a 20-meter line designed for the game’s restarting position. The Rugby League needs to be restarted because of the game’s initial aim to prevent the opposing team from scoring a try. Events such as the ball crossing the boundary line or a defending player catch the ball when the opposing team kicks it.

To restart the game, Rugby League uses the Goal Line too. This event usually occurs when a player stands within the goal area, or the ball crosses the goal line after being kicked within the halfway line.


Due to the Rugby League’s aim to prevent opponents from scoring a try, tackling releases the ball to the defending team. A tackle happens when the player carrying the ball is knocked down to the ground and can no longer escape and run free.

The referee gets to decide if the player cannot escape and pass the ball to the other team. But if the referee decides that the player can still run, he will suggest that the play be resumed and carried on.

During tackling, the player must tightly hold the ball. Because if they lose it when the tackle is going on, a scrum happens to decide who gets to possess the ball. The opposing team has a maximum of six tackles before they hand the ball to the defending team. After the sixth tackle, the defending team will carry the ball to the 20-meter line and restart it.


A player gets penalties when breaking the rules of the game. A player receives a particular penalty when they move down to the field before the ball has been dropped, kicked, or interfered with while the opposition is trying to kick the ball.

When serving a penalty to the other team, the opposition receives extra 10 meters and moves closer to the field. This measure will then give the opposing team leverage in scoring a try by doing a penalty scrum or bonus penalty kick.

Rugby League Rules

There are essential rules to observe in a game of Rugby League. These rules determine whether the ball gets passed to the opposition. And it is the referee who is responsible for making decisions during a match. Below are some of the basic rules in the Rugby League:

  • The ball shouldn’t be passed deliberately from one player to another.
  • It is not permitted when a player knocks the ball around the boundary line with their arm or hand (knock-on).
  • When kicking at the 20-meter line, the ball must always contact the player’s foot.
  • A player gets offside once they touch the ball after a team member touched or kicked it.
  • All kickoffs from the halfway line and dropping out from the goal line and 20-meter line must travel for a minimum of 10 meters forward and land on the playing field.

Newcastle Knights and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Two of the highly desirable teams in the National Rugby League are the Knights and Bulldogs. The units are based in Newcastle, South Wales, and Belmore, Canterbury-Bankstown, respectively. Both teams have gone through impressive evolutions throughout their competitive history.

For the Knights, they have players such as Hodgson, Musgrove, Lee, and Crossland for their backs. They also have notable forwards such as Jones, Randall, and Ma’anaima. And the team is being handled by coaches O’Brien, Smith, Kostjasyn, and Peters.

The Bulldogs have players such as Wakeham, Crichton, Allan, and Averill for their backs. They also have notable forwards such as Elliot, Smith, and Wadell. And the team is being handled by coach Barett.


You no longer have to feel left out when your friends and loved ones are busy talking about rugby. With this comprehensive guide, you can now be part of the conversation. Grab your popcorn and watch your favorite teams play for the win!

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