Australian News

Bellevue Hill mother Samantha Palmer accused of stabbing son Hugo Ball

A mother accused of stabbing her own son multiple times at their family home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs screamed “I love you” as she was escorted into the back of a police van.

Officers were called to a home on Drumalbyn Rd in Bellevue Hill just after 1.30am on Saturday where they found 22-year-old Hugo Ball suffering life-threatening injuries.

It is alleged he had been stabbed in his upper body.

He was treated at the scene before being rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital in a serious condition. His condition has since stabilised following surgery.

NSW Ambulance Inspector Giles Buchanan told 9News Mr Ball had extremely low blood pressure suggesting he had lost a lot of blood

“The location of the wounds can certainly be fatal,” he said.

His 55-year-old mother Samantha Palmer was arrested at the home and taken to Waverley Police Station where she spent 13 hours before she was charged with wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (domestic violence).

She could be heard screaming “I love you” as authorities whisked her away into the back of a police van.

“I’m the mother of this child for God’s sake,” Mr Palmer could be heard saying.

She was refused bail and will front court on Sunday.

A knife was seized from the home.

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Bounce protein ball cashew caramel may contain plastic

An urgent recall has been issued for one of Australia’s most popular protein balls over fears there is plastic embedded inside.

Food Standards Australia issued the recall for the 40g Bounce Protein Ball Cashew Caramel yesterday afternoon.

The protein balls are available across Australia and are sold at Coles, Woolworths, independent food retailers including IGA, 7-Eleven, Caltex, BP, EG Fuels and United Fuel nationally.

South Australian store On the Run also sells the balls and the health food can be bought in pharmacies and online retail outlets nationally.

The batch being recalled has a best before date of 21/07/21 with batch number M2310.

“The recall is due to the potential presence of foreign matter (plastic),” Food Safety Australia said.

“Food products containing plastic may cause injury if consumed.”

Anyone who has bought from the potentially bad batch can return the product to their place of purchase for a full refund.

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Less spectacle, more percentages: Why the NRL’s elite now spurn kicks and run the ball on the last tackle

The “5th” graphic pops up on screen, the caller’s voice quickens.

It’s the last tackle, the peak of rugby league drama. What magical combination of run, pass and kick will follow?

For the methodical NRL players of today, this moment is becoming more about playing the percentages.

And that approach has led to this season recording the lowest grubber-rate in recent history.

Changing kicks

The conventional approach to the fifth tackle — the last before a side has to hand the ball over to the opposition — remains to kick the ball.

Across this season’s 1,600 last-tackle play-the-balls inside the opponent’s 20-metre line, close to three quarters involved kicks, and more than half of these either led to a try or forced a drop-out.

Faced with the competence of modern NRL defences, a team might look at those numbers and see as obvious the appeal of the boot.

And it’s a win for the fans, creating spectacles like this:

And this:

But there’s more to it than that.

History of the seven-tackle set

Errant kicks that cross the dead-ball line are now punished by giving the other side an extra tackle in their sets from a 20-metre tap restart.

The 2014 rule was designed to discourage teams kicking the ball dead to defuse supercharged opposition fullbacks, such as Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater.

“Because of the new rules, you need to get your fifth-tackle options right because you’ve got to try and get that ball back and you can’t give away easy possession,” Braith Anasta, then of Wests Tigers, said after one early loss that year.

Team are still adapting to the rule: 30 tries were scored from seven-tackle sets in 2020.

However, even by the long-term trend, this season has stood out. There have been fewer kicks going dead and fewer grubbers (even adjusting for the shortened season).

Season Kicks going dead per game Play the balls for every grubber kick
2016 1.50 26
2017 1.49 28
2018 1.24 30
2019 1.27 27
2020 1.09 32

The chase for a grubber into the in-goal may be one of rugby league’s most eye-catching plays, but to some the risk of harm outweighs the potential benefit.

That sensational video of the dive and slide by Parramatta’s Brad Takairangi above? It ended like this:

The future of the last

The seven-tackle set has discouraged kickers from flirting with the in-goal.

And some teams, like Melbourne in the examples below, would prefer to run the ball, thinking the worst thing that can happen is a handover.

But some talent, like that of Rabbitohs’ halfback Adam Reynolds, resists the tyranny of percentages.

Despite attempting more than forty grubbers this season, he has kicked it dead just five times.

Adam Reynolds’s Rabbitohs play the Newcastle Knights in an elimination final at 4pm Sunday AEST.

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US Open line judge hit by ball from Novak Djokovic receives online abuse over his disqualification

Novak Djokovic has urged his fans to leave a US Open line judge alone after she received online abuse over the incident that led to his disqualification.

The fallout continued from the world number one’s shock exit from the tournament after he swatted away a ball which then hit the line judge in the throat.

“Dear #NoleFam thank you for your positive messages. Please also remember the linesperson who was hit by the ball last night needs our community’s support too,” he tweeted.

Djokovic ended his message, saying: “Europe here I come.”

The Serbian superstar had just had his serve broken in the first set against Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta when he blindly hit the ball away behind him in frustration. It hit the female line judge, and she fell to her knees gasping.


A concerned Djokovic ran over to check on her, but minutes later he was out of the US Open, under the “abuse of balls” rule.

The incident has stunned the tennis world, blown the men’s singles draw wide open and ruined Djokovic’s campaign for an 18th career major tournament title.

Djokovic — who left the tournament hub at Flushing Meadows without talking to the media — later released a statement on Instagram to apologise for the incident, his behaviour and for the stress caused to the line judge.

“I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok,” he posted.

“I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong.

A line judge stares up at a tennis player whose hand is on her shoulder after she was hit by a ball.
Novak Djokovic apologised online for the distress caused to the line judge, but opted not to identify her.(AFP: Al Bello)

However a Serbian newspaper reportedly shared her Instagram handle, leading to a rush of negative comments on her posts.


Some people shared screenshots of the replies to the woman’s account.

One reply included the comments, “I hope you rot in hell for this”, and “You can be assured that one day karma will come for you”.

Reports suggested some responses were even more threatening.


Former Australian tennis player Rennae Stubbs, who has been commentating on the US Open for broadcaster ESPN, expressed her anger about the response.

“LET ME SAY THIS LOUDLY! Anyone who blames the lines lady for the default of Novak…STOP!

“The lady had NOTHING to do with the default! Repeat! Nothing!!! Ok!! ITS A RULE,” Stubbs tweeted.


Djokovic was fined $US10,000 ($13,732) for unsportsmanlike conduct after his default from the US Open.

That amount is half the $US20,000 ($27,465) that a player can be docked for violating the unsportsmanlike conduct clause of the grand slam rule book.

The $US10,000 is in addition to the $US250,000 ($343,319) in prize money the US Tennis Association said the world number one would forfeit after being disqualified in the first set of his fourth-round match on Sunday.


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Novak Djokovic disqualified from US Open after inadvertently hitting line judge with ball

World number one Novak Djokovic has lost his fourth round match at the US Open in dramatic circumstances after he was defaulted for hitting a ball in anger that struck a female line judge in the throat.

Djokovic had just had his serve broken by Pablo Carreno Busta to trail 5-6 in the first set.

As he walked to the sideline at the change of ends, in frustration he hit the ball behind him without looking — the line judge dropped to her knees at the back of the court, holding her neck.

The 17-time major title winner stood at the net for several minutes discussing the incident with officials including tournament referee Soeren Friemel, before going to Carreno Busta and shaking hands, then grabbing his bags and walking off court.

It was a stunning end to Djokovic’s bid for an 18th Grand Slam title and his unbeaten start to 2020 — prior to the match the Serbian superstar had a match record of 26-0 for the season.

Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte then announced the default.

A tennis player bends over to talk to a woman sitting on the ground with her hand to her throat.
Novak Djokovic was the favourite to win the US Open — but an on-court incident has ended his tournament.(AP: Seth Wenig)

The USTA released a statement after the incident.

“In accordance with the Grand Slam rulebook, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the US Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 US Open,” the statement read.

“Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the US Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”


It was apparent Djokovic did not intend to hit the line judge; he wasn’t looking in that direction when his racquet made contact with the ball and there was concern written on his face as soon as he realised what happened.

But players who hit a ball out of anger and make contact with an on-court official have been defaulted in the past.

In 2017, Denis Shapovalov — the 21-year-old Canadian scheduled to play his fourth-round match on Sunday night US time — was defaulted from a Davis Cup match against Britain when he accidentally hit the chair umpire in the face with a ball.

At Wimbledon in 1995, Tim Henman hit a ball into the head of a ball girl and was defaulted from a doubles match with partner Jeremy Bates.

“I think the supervisors and all them are just doing their job, but [it is] very unlucky for Novak,” said Alexander Zverev, the tournament’s number five seed, who reached the quarterfinals by beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

“If it would have landed anywhere else — we’re talking a few inches — he would have been fine.”

Djokovic’s default means there is no man remaining in the field who previously has won a Grand Slam singles title.

Whoever emerges as champion will be the first first-time major trophy winner in men’s tennis since 2014, when Marin Cilic won the US Open.

Plus, each of the last 13 Grand Slam trophies had been won by a member of the “big three” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic.

More to come.


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Ireland beat England with one ball to spare in third ODI thanks to twin centuries

Ireland chased down a daunting target of 329 to stun world champions England with a seven-wicket win in the third and final one-day international at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday.

Paul Stirling and captain Andy Balbirnie both struck superb centuries as the tourists secured just their second ever win over England in international cricket.

England, who had already sealed the series, batted first and recovered from early trouble to post 328 all out one ball shy of their 50 overs, with captain Eoin Morgan providing another classy century against the country of his birth.

But Ireland never looked intimidated in their chase as Stirling smashed 142 from 128 balls and Balbirnie 113 from 112 to put on a record 214 for the second wicket, and the second-highest partnership for Ireland in ODIs as they reached their target with one ball to spare.

The series is the first in the International Cricket Council’s 13-team Super League that serves as the qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup in India, where the hosts and the leading seven sides will play at the finals.

Eoin Morgan ducks under a short ball with his bat in the air
Eoin Morgan scored a century for England, against the country of his birth.(Pool via AP: Adrian Dennis)

England slipped to 44-3 at the start of their innings, but Morgan, who previously played 23 ODIs for Ireland, took the attack to the bowlers and was well supported by Tom Banton (58) as they put on 146 in 18.2 overs for the fourth wicket.

David Willey (51) and Tom Curran (38 not out) added 73 more for the eighth wicket to see England past 300.

Ireland raced along in their reply, aided by a poor length from the home bowlers, with Stirling reaching his ninth ODI century and captain Balbirnie his sixth, but neither could see their side home.

The visitors needed eight off the last over bowled by Saqib Mahmood, and were aided by a waist-high no-ball that provided an extra ball and a free hit.

Ireland’s only other victory over England in 13 ODI matches came at the 2011 World Cup when they scored 329-7 as Kevin O’Brien scored a century.

He was at the crease to hit the winning runs in this latest victory to seal another famous Ireland success.

Paul Stirling hits a shot down on one knee
Paul Stirling hit a spectacular 142 runs in 128 balls.(Pool via AP: Adrian Dennis)

Stirling said Ireland always believed they could chase down a score of over 300.

“It was brilliant to get our first win in the competition, especially after a few tough performances in the last two games,” Stirling said.

“We’ve chased over 300 a number of times, particularly in World Cups, so we knew we could do it.

“It [the big target] maybe just freed us up a little bit to go a bit harder up top and have a bit of fun.

“In the middle overs we were able to keep it ticking along, so it was just a pretty solid chase in the end.”

It was Stirling’s ninth ODI hundred, but one of his best, though he was more relieved to have broken his side’s duck in the Super League.

“This one is up top there, definitely. To do it against England in England is a nice one to have under your belt, but it was a team performance.

“It is the win that counts and 10 points there on the board. They are the most important things.”


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AFL directives and coaches’ complaints on holding the ball are leading to uncertainty and pressure on umpires

In recent weeks, the standard of umpiring has become an increasing source of frustration for fans who are rightly confused by the sometimes-inconsistent application of the rules. But is it really the umpire’s fault or more a symptom of micro-management?

Coaching great David Parkin says there’s no more difficult game to officiate than Australian Rules Football. Being an umpire is a thankless occupation conducted in a long-established environment of ridicule and derision.


The ‘umps’ make split-second decisions often under physical fatigue and with their view obscured by the modern game’s mass congestion.

Players are also master manipulators, who take advantage when umpires are blindsided and use subtle techniques to coerce them into paying unwarranted free kicks.

In conventional seasons, heaving crowds also create a combustible atmosphere that whistle-blowers must find overwhelming.

But perhaps the greatest challenge for umpires is that football, the fast-paced 360-degree game, has more grey than a London summer and also comes with varying degrees of interpretation.

What might appear a blatant holding the ball in the eyes of a Collingwood supporter could also spark a Carlton fan’s screams for a push in the back, while the umpire might determine it’s simply a ball up — one incident, three different opinions, three people convinced of their interpretation.

Clarkson memo a catalyst for fan frustration

Alastair Clarkson wears a grey jacket and looks pensive
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson’s comments on the holding the ball rule have increased the pressure on umpires.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

To my eye, the fans’ frustration with umpiring has coincided with the Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson’s calls for a stricter interpretation of holding the ball.


The AFL responded by issuing a memo to the umpires requesting a tighter application of the rule relating to players making a genuine attempt to dispose of the footy.

Ever since, the umpires have looked clouded in uncertainty when it comes to holding the ball, leading to an increase in decisions that perplex.

The league felt compelled to put out a statement after Monday night’s clash between Adelaide and St. Kilda acknowledging umpiring errors and that more work was needed to ensure more consistency in decision making, particularly with regards to holding the ball decisions.

What the AFL failed to acknowledge was the role it had played in creating umpire confusion by demanding changes to how they interpret holding the ball.

The ‘Clarkson memo’ only created another shade of grey, leading to greater uncertainty and increased pressure on umpires.

AFL players have long held the view that the league too often attempts to influence the way the game is officiated.


Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling often speaks of the ‘rule of the week’ while Fellow ABC Grandstand expert and 300-game player Brendon Goddard has also expressed his frustration with constant shifts in interpretation.

Goddard believes umpire mistakes are just a feature of football and has bemoaned the weekly umpire reviews that lead to reactive measures.

“I’ve never understood the focus area [of the rules] week to week,’ he said.

“The umpires are only human, so it’s front of their mind going into next week.

Greene the key for erratic Giants

If you were watching Friday night football this week you were lucky enough to witness one of the AFL’s most damaging players, Toby Greene, at his match-winning best.

A GWS Giants players pumps his right first as he looks to his right while celebrating a goal against Richmond.
Toby Greene booted five precious goals for GWS as the Giants got the better of Richmond on Friday night.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

With three wins and four losses heading into the clash against last year’s grand final opponent Richmond, Greater Western Sydney’s season was on a knife’s edge.


In his return from injury, Greene kicked five goals including the only major in a tense final term to inspire the Giants to a crucial 12-point win. Greene is a hard-nosed old-school footballer with superb aerial ability, a great footy brain, beautiful poise and balance.

He’s also a reliable shot at goal, which is an increasingly rare quality. Had Greene not played on Friday night the Giants would never have won and a season that started with great optimism would have just about lay in ruin.

I’m battling to think of a player more important to the success or failure of his team than Greater Western Sydney’s star number four.

Speaking of the four, that’s where West Coast finds itself after an 11-goal thrashing of competition heavyweight Collingwood.

In keeping with the trend of their season, the Magpies started strongly and led by 14 points at quarter-time. From there, it was all West Coast with Tim Kelly producing his best performance for his new club and veteran forward Josh Kennedy winding back the clock with a seven-goal haul.

There’s no place like home and with the challenges of Queensland hub-life seemingly a distant memory, the Eagles are emerging as the premiership threat most expected them to be.

Saints on the rise with Ratten

An AFL coach smiles before the game.
It’s been a struggle for St Kilda in recent years, but under coach Brett Ratten, the Saints are back in the top four.(AAP: Dave Hunt, file photo)

This round also further emphasised the emergence of St Kilda as a side to be reckoned with.

In 2016 the unheralded Western Bulldogs based their exhilarating finals assault around the motto: ‘Why not us?’. The Saints have every right to borrow from the ‘Bullies’ as they too chase a prized second premiership.

The sight of coach Brett Ratten sitting contented on the bench near the end of Saturday night’s win over top-of-the-table Port Adelaide was a truly lovely moment.

A premiership winning midfielder with Carlton, Ratten has endured immense periods of hardship post his decorated playing career. He’s been unceremoniously sacked as coach of the club he represented with great distinction and lived through every parent’s worst nightmare, the tragic loss of a child in a car crash.

Ratten’s infectious personality, caring nature and sharp football intellect has made an immense impact at St Kilda and the side has developed more than a hint of the committed and direct approach that defined their coach as a player.

Much like that trademark Ratten grin, the Saints of 2020 are one of footy’s great sights.


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England bowlers using back sweat to shine the ball in Test against West Indies with saliva use banned

England fast bowler Mark Wood says players are now using “back sweat” rather than saliva to try and shine the ball during the first Test against West Indies.

Strict health protocols are in place for the return of international cricket after a 117-day stoppage caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including a ban on saliva.

It did not bother the West Indies bowlers who dismissed England for 204 on the second day with Jason Holder taking six wickets for a career-best Test haul of 6-42.

Wood later steamed in, bowling at frightening pace, but West Indies ended the day well-placed on 1-57.

“Back sweat has been the major thing at the moment with saliva going out the window,” Wood said.

“Only your own, although we’re mingling the back sweat a little on the ball — I’ve got some of Jimmy [Anderson’s] and Jofra [Archer’s].”

It was a disappointing day for England and, with a better weather forecast for Friday, West Indies has the chance to seize control of the match.

The off stump is pushed back and the bails are flying as the ball cannons into the stumps
England struggled with the bat, as James Holder led the way for the West Indies.(AP: Mike Hewitt)

“We haven’t had the best day so plenty to do. I’d prefer a few in the wickets column rather than the pace column,” Wood said.

“They bowled well and got to give them credit, but 204 wasn’t on the radar, we’d have liked 250 or 300.

“We didn’t get it right with the ball, they got their line and length spot on. It’s a bit of cobwebs and rust.”

Holder had been troubled by an ankle injury in the build-up to the Test but produced a magnificent display of bowling, including taking the crucial wicket of his England counterpart Ben Stokes for 43.

“My patience has definitely increased. Before I was trying to bowl too many deliveries in one spell,” he said.

“I look at consistency, and patience was one of the things I was lacking. Using the crease is something I strive to do and using the angles at the point of delivery. When you’re not as quick as some people, you’ve got to be skilful.”


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Cricket Australia abandons Dukes ball for Sheffield Shield citing lack of spinner development

Cricket Australia has put its Dukes ball experiment on ice, deciding to use Kookaburra throughout the coming Sheffield Shield season as it seeks to help spinners develop.

CA had used a Dukes ball in the second half of Shield seasons since 2016-17, wanting players to prepare for the same pill they would encounter if selected on an Ashes tour.

The ploy was one of many pieces of the puzzle that helped Australia retain the Ashes in 2019, a feat that no Australian team had accomplished in England since 2001.

It is likely the British ball will be used again in Australia’s first-class competition whenever attention shifts to the Ashes tour that is currently scheduled for 2023.

Australia captain Tim Paine lifts the Ashes Urn as his Australian teammates smile, laugh and spray champagne. Streamers fly.
Australia retained the Ashes after the 2-2 draw in England.(AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

CA’s head of cricket operations Peter Roach noted “we see a definite opportunity to reintroduce the Dukes ball at some stage in the future”, but for now CA will stick with Kookaburra.

“The introduction of the Dukes ball has been a worthwhile exercise … we have been happy with how the ball has performed when used in Australian conditions over the past four seasons,” Roach said.

“We do, however, feel that reverting to one ball for 2020-21 will provide the consistent examination of our players over a full season that CA and the states are presently seeking.

“The Kookaburra is the ball used for international cricket in Australia and many parts of the world.”

Marnus Labuschagne leans back and plays a cut shot with a horizontal bat as Jonny Bairstow crouches behind him with gloves ready
Marnus Labuschagne had no trouble with the Dukes ball in England in 2019.(AP: Rui Vieira)

Of the 12 Test-playing nations, just England, Ireland and the West Indies use a Dukes ball in Test matches, with India alone in using the SG-brand ball.

Roach added that spinners in the “Sheffield Shield have been playing less of a role in recent seasons, most notably in games when the Dukes ball is in use”.

“We hope that the change to one ball with have a positive benefit here.”


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The NRL’s fastest at playing the ball revealed, but ruck mysteries remain

The wrestle is never far from controversy in the NRL, and statistics only tell half the story.

A mid-lockdown rule change to allow for an instant set restart from ruck infringements was designed to more heavily penalise teams trying to slow down the play the ball.

And for years, Melbourne Storm’s ability to control the ball carrier in defence has been cited as either the foundation of their brilliance or the enemy of the game.

Ball carriers that can overpower or outfox their tacklers help keep a defensive line on its heels.

A typical play the ball takes just under three-and-a-half seconds.

These players averaged much less than that last season.

Name Ave. (s) Pos. 2019 team
Matthew Lodge 2.98 Prop Brisbane
Jordan McLean 3.04 Prop North Qld
Josh Mansour 3.06 Wing Penrith
Felise Kaufusi 3.1 2nd Row Melbourne
Daniel Tupou 3.12 Wing Roosters
Jai Arrow 3.13 Lock Gold Coast
Shaun Kenny-Dowall 3.16 Wing Newcastle
Dane Gagai 3.18 Centre Souths
Corey Oates 3.19 Wing Brisbane
Jack Williams 3.2 2nd Row Cronulla

Source: Stats, ABC analysis, minimum 200 play the balls

When you look at the 121kg giant Matthew Lodge, speed demon doesn’t spring to mind.

But equally, players like Josh Mansour and Jack Williams are hardly behemoths.

Matt Lodge lies on the ground after being tackled by St George Illawarra players.
This play the ball probably wasn’t one of Matthew Lodge’s fastest.(AAP: Craig Golding)

It’s an indication that there may be more to ruck effectiveness than simple statistics can measure.

The NRL clocks play the ball speed as the time it takes from the referee’s call for tacklers to release, to the ball being played through the legs.

Lodge’s art is to stay standing in the tackle or be held in a crouched position, allowing him to get the ball quickly through his legs to his dummy half when the ref calls for the players to release.

These were his two fastest play the balls last year, the stopwatch for each showing little more than a second.

Despite the endless brouhaha about Melbourne and their ability to extract advantage in the ruck, the direct link between on-field success and play the ball speed statistics has proven elusive.

In fact, found no correlation between on-field success and play the ball speed two years ago.

Video reveals play the ball truth

There is some evidence fast play the balls do lead to line breaks, however.

Play the balls made in the 20 seconds before a line break last season were around a tenth of a second faster than others on average. The gap increases to about three tenths if the window is reduced to 10 seconds. In the short 2020 season so far, that pattern has been replicated.

Your eyes do not deceive. The quick play the ball in these plays helped slice open the line.

Video also shows how defenders can be in control even during play the balls marked as speedy.

During Canberra’s opening set against the Storm last week, they had four faster-than-average play the balls in a row, building momentum and earning great field position.

But on the fourth tackle in the video, even though the Raiders’ Joseph Tapine had penetrated the Melbourne line and recorded a quick play the ball, the Storm’s defensive line was already set for the following tackle.

Tapine’s play the ball was recorded at a rapid 1.96 seconds.

However, Cameron Munster had his hands on him for more than five seconds, holding him up during that time, and Cameron Smith was able to come in late to further delay the next play.

It meant that although Tapine had run close to 20 metres and delivered a statistically quick play the ball, Melbourne’s line was set for the next tackle.

Speed slows over time

A chart showing how play the balls speeds slowed over last season.
Play the ball speeds slowed over the course of last season.

While video helps document the nuance of the ruck, play the ball speed data by itself does deliver some inarguable truths.

There’s a consistent pattern showing a slowing of pace over the course of a season, and not just for teams out of the finals race.

That has implications for how the ruck and referee rule changes will affect the NRL this season.

There was a dramatic fall in play the ball speeds in round three following the changes, from around 3.6 seconds in the first two rounds to 3.4 in round three.

As players tire and teams adjust to the new rules, it’s likely that will be the quickest the ruck will be all season.

Got something to add? ABC wants to speak to sports analytics experts as part of upcoming investigations. Email to say hello.

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