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How To Understand Rugby League

Posted By admin On February 26, 2010 @ 3:23 pm In Rugby League | Comments Disabled

The 2010 NRL Rugby League season is underway, but what exactly is a ‘Dropkick’ and a ‘Penalty Try’? Find out the basic rules and how to understand Rugby League with this handy article.

What is Rugby League?

Rugby League is a contact sport made up of two teams with 13 players in each team and lasts for 80 minutes. The aim of the game is to beat your opposing team by receiving more points. Players drop-kick a ball into the air, run with the ball or throw the ball towards the goal in order to gain points, known as a ‘try’. The defending team try to prevent a try from occurring by tackling opposing team members to the ground to release the ball, then running or kicking the ball in the air to his or her team members.

Scoring Points

Obviously the team who has the highest number of points wins the game of Rugby League. Points are scored by receiving Try’s, which are worth four points. Try’s are scored when a player reaches the goal and places the ball over the goal line to touch the ground. If a penalty try is awarded this is worth two points.

If the ball touches the posts then the goal is not allowed. A drop goal occurs when a player kicks the ball between the goals from further down the field and counts as one point. If the ball touches the goal posts then no points are awarded.


The game begins from the centre of the field, at the ‘halfway line’. The two teams throw a toss of a coin to decide who starts the first kick, which takes place from the ‘halfway line’. In the second half of the game, the defending team have a turn at kicking off from the same line.

A 20 metre line is designed for a restarting position during a game of rugby league.  There are many reasons why a game needs to be restarted in Rugby League, because the aim of the game is to prevent the opposition from scoring a try. This could be anything from the ball crossing the boundary line, through to if a defending player catches the ball from the opposition when it is kicked.

A Goal Line is also used to restart a game, and often occurs if a player breaks the rules when standing within the goal area or if the ball crosses the boundary line or goal line, from a kick from within the centre of the halfway line.


Because the aim of Rugby League is to prevent the opposition from scoring a try, players may be tackled to release the ball to the other side.

A tackle is basically when a player who is carrying the ball is knocked to the ground and the player cannot escape to their feet to run free with the ball. The referee normally decides that the player who is grounded cannot freely escape and the ball must then be passed onto another player. If the referee decides that the tackle was not complete or the player is able to escape easily, then they can advise the players to play on.

The player who has been tackled must hold tightly to the ball, because if they loose it during the tackle, then a scrum will take place to decide which team gets possession of the ball.

There must be six tackles made by the opposing team towards the other team before the ball is then handed over to the defending team. When the sixth tackle takes place successfully, the defending team then has possession of the ball and the ball is carried to the 20 metre line to kick off again.


A penalty is a form of punishment and is put in place when a player does not follow the rules.

A player will be penalised in particular if they move down the field before the ball has been kicked or dropped out or interferes with the game when the opposition is attempting to kick the ball

Because the player does not follow the rules, the opposing team receive an extra 10 metres of field closer to their goal and gives them more chance to score a try. The opposing team will receive either a bonus penalty kick or a penalty scrum.

Important Rules

Rugby League has lots of important rules determining if the ball gets passed to the opposing team. The Referee makes the important decisions and here are some basic important rules in a game of Rugby League…

  • A player must not deliberately pass the ball forward to another team member.
  • If a player knocks the ball towards the boundary line with their hand or arm this is called a knock-on and it is not permitted.
  • A player is offside if they touch the ball after it is already touched, held or kicked by one of their own team members . A player cannot be offside within their own goal line.
  • To kick off at the 20 metre line, the ball must always come into contact with the foot.
  • Kick offs from the halfway line and drop outs from the goal line and 20 metre line must travel a minimum of 10 metres forward and must land in the playing field.
  • If the ball is kicked over the opponent’s boundary line or goal line, the game is restarted by a scrum.
  • A player who jumps up into the air to catch a ball following a kick is not allowed to be tackled by the defending team until they have returned to the ground.

So there you have it – a basic run down of how to understand Rugby League. Go The Warriors!

You may also be interested in reading a few of our other How To sporting guides, including How to understand rugb [1]y and How to play cricket [2].

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