An Introduction To Rugby League (Part One): Rugby League Terminology

Scott BeebySenior Analyst IAugust 7, 2009

Hello and welcome to the new Rugby League section of Bleacher Report. Over the next few weeks I will be writing an introduction to Rugby League.

There are a lot of intricacies in the game of Rugby League. Like any sport, there are a lot of rules to follow, some of which can be confusing at times.

The following definitions should help the you understand the game of Rugby League a little bit more.

General Terms

Premiers—The winners of the season are referred to as the premiers. They are number one in their competition for that year. It can also be said that they won the premiership.

Minor Premiers—The team that has accumulated the most points on the ladder (leader board) by the end of the regular season is known as the minor premiers. They have placed first for the regular season, which usually gives the team some momentum leading into the finals.

Wooden Spoon—The team that runs dead last in the competition receives the dreaded wooden spoon. If it becomes clear that a team isn't going to make the finals, then they will still fight as hard as they can to avoid the wooden spoon.

Top Eight—The eight teams that place highest on the ladder by the end of the regular season go through to the finals. They are known as the top eight.

For and Against—Throughout the regular season, each team is playing to win two points on the ladder. By the end of the regular season however, if there are multiple teams on the same amount of points, and so they are ranked by how many points they've scored during their games and how many points have been scored against them. (e.g. A team might have scored 400 points in the season and had 350 points scored against them. Their for and against would be +50).

Goal Kicker—The member of the team that has the responsibility of kicking goals is known as the goal kicker.

Playmaker—The member(s) of the team that create the scoring opportunities are called the playmakers.

Penalty—Like any sport, there are penalties in Rugby League. If a player tackles an opponent around the head or is offside, and the referee sees it, then they'll get penalised. The team can then choose to either play on from their current position, kick the ball over the sideline and play on from where it goes out, or attempt to kick a goal.

Professional Foul—It's not very often that you'll see a professional foul in a game of Rugby League, but when they do happen the player gets either put in the sin bin or sent off the field. Some examples are deliberately tripping or holding a player down.

Suspension—If a player gets put on report and the judiciary believes that the player's incident is bad enough, that player can be put on suspension and will miss a certain amount of games.

Sin Bin—If the referee feels that a player has breached the rules of the game and committed a professional foul, then that player will be sent to the sin bin for a 10 minute period.

Send Off —If a player commits a professional foul, then the referee has the power to send them off the field for the rest of the game.

Referee—The man in the middle with a whistle. He controls everything in the game and has the power to give teams penalties or even send players to the sin bin.

Sideline Referee—There is a person that stands on each sideline with a flag to signal when a player or the ball crosses the sideline and goes "into touch." These people are known as sideline referees.

Video Referee—If the referee on the field is unsure whether a try has been scored, due to not seeing the ball or one of many other reasons, they can refer the decision "upstairs" to the video ref, who will review the try from multiple camera angles 

The Field

Try/Goal Line—The ball carrier must place the ball either on or past the try line to score a try.

Side/Touch Line—If the ball or the ball carrier go over the touch line then they are out of play and the ball goes to the other team.

Dead Ball Line—When the ball crosses the dead ball line it is out of play. If the last person to touch it was attacking, then the defenders get the ball back on their 20 metre line. If a defender was the last to touch it, then they must kick a dropout from under their goal posts.

In Goal Area—The in-goal area is the area between the try line and the dead ball line. It is where players must ground the ball in order to score a try.

Corner Post—The corner post is mostly used to tell if a ball goes out over the touch line or if it goes into touch in goal. It tends to be one of the more controversial matters in Rugby League because if a player touches it they are automatically out of play, even though their feet might still be in bounds.


Kick Off—Before a game of Rugby League, the captains of each team participate in the coin toss to decide which way the teams are going and which team will kick off. To start the game, a player from one of the teams places the ball on a kicking tee in the middle of the halfway line and kicks it

Bomb—A bomb is when a player kicks the ball as high into the air and as far down the field as he can to give his team time to get underneath it and try to get it back.

Grubber—A grubber kick is when the player kicks the ball along the ground, sending the ball going end over end.

Chip and Chase—This is when a player kicks the ball in front of himself just high enough to be out of reach of his opponents. The kicker then runs around the men in front of him and regathers the ball.

Dropout—If a player is tackled in their own in goal area, or they are forced over the dead ball line while in possession of the ball, then the team has to kick a dropout. This is when the kicker dropkicks the ball as far as he can from underneath his own goal posts.

Banana Kick—This is one of the most unpredictable type of kicks in the game. A banana kick is when the ball comes off the side of kicker's foot, sending the ball on an almost 90 degree angle from his foot.

40/20-If a player can kick the ball from inside his own 40 metre line and make it bounce and go out past the opponents's 20 metre line, then the kicker's team gets the ball back.

General Play

Set Of Six—Each team gets a limit or set of six tackles to be incurred when they are in possession of the ball before posession must be relinquished to the opponent. Usually, once a team has been tackled five times they choose to kick the ball down the field so the opposition has further to travel during their set of six.

Try—This is the main way of scoring in Rugby League. To score a try the player must ground the ball in the opponent's in goal area. It's worth four points.

Conversion—Also known as a goal, a conversion is when a player kicks the ball, usually off of a tee, in between the goal posts. It is worth two points.

Field Goal—A field goal is when a player drops the ball on the ground in front of them and kicks it after it bounces. It's worth one point if it successfully travels between the goal posts. It's commonly used as a way to break tied scores or to get ahead on the scoreboard by an extra point.

Penalty Try—If a defender commits a professional foul against the ball carrier who is simultaneously scoring a try, then the referee can award the ball carrier a penalty try. That means that instead of the player earning his team four points as well as a kick at goal, the team gets four points plus two kicks at goal.

Play The Ball—After a player gets tackled they have to get to there feet where they are and roll the ball under one foot. A player from the same team stands behind him to pick the ball up and play it by either passing it, kicking it, or running with it.

Line Break—When a player with the ball manages to slip through the defensive line it is called a line break.

Tackle Break—Obviously when a player gets tackled they fight to break free from it. If they manage to get away then it's called a tackle break.

Offload—When the ball carrier is in the process of being tackled they are allowed to give the ball to a team mate as long as the referee hasn't deemed the tackle to be finished. This is called an offload.

Interchange—Each team has four players on the sideline that they can use as replacements if a player on the field gets hurt or tired. When a player on the field is replaced, it is known as an interchange. There is a set limit to the amount of interchanges each team can make per game. In Australia it is 10, but the international rules state that each team can make up to 12 substitutes.

Fend—This is simply when the player with the ball sticks his arm out to keep the opposition away.

Strip—When a player is getting tackled they must make sure to keep the ball secure. Opposition players will sometimes attempt to pull the ball out of their grasp. This is known as a strip or a rake and is legal as long as it is one on one. If more than one player of a team is involved in the tackle when the strip is attempted, then that team will be penalised.

Knock On—When the ball travels forward from the ball carrier and hits the ground or an opposition player it is called a knock on. A scrum is then formed, with the opponent feeding the ball.

On Report—If a player tackles somebody high or puts them in a dangerous position, then the referee can put that player on report. That means that they can keep playing but sometime after the match a judiciary will get together to decide what the player's punishment should be (if any).

Double Movement—When a player has the ball and gets tackled close to the try line, they sometimes attempt to lung forward to score the try. If the player's momentum has stopped when they attempt to reach the try line with a second attempt, then the referee can rule it as a double movement and the try won't count.

Grounding—When a player scores a try they must ground it properly. As the rules stand right now, that just means that the player must have contact with the ball when it's on the ground, but not necessarily have control of it. If the referee asks the video ref to have a look at the try, he will ask for him to check for grounding.

Hit Up—Whenever a player runs with the ball and gets tackled it is called a hit up.

Chicken Wing Tackle—This is when a player gets tackled to the ground face first and has their arm wrenched across their back by the tackler. It is possible for the shoulder to become dislocated from this type of tackle, and as a result it isn't tolerated by the officials and will get penalized or worse.

Grapple Tackle—It is illegal for a tackler to get the ball carrier on the ground and put an arm around the tackled man's head. That is called a grapple tackle and will be penalised by the referee.

High Tackle—In Rugby League it is legal to tackle a player anywhere from the shoulder down, and by any means necessary. If a player is tackled around the head then it is called a high tackle. If a tackler was to connect with the player's shoulder and bounce up and hit him in the head, then play would just continue as normal.

Ankle Tap—If a player breaks the opponents line and runs past everyone, the last ditch effort of a chasing defender will be to dive at the player's feet and swipe at his ankles to make him fall over. This is called an ankle tap.

Golden Point—If the scores are tied after the two 40 minutes halves, then the game goes for an extra 10 minutes and the "golden point" rule applies. That means that the game ends after the next point is scored. A team could win by scoring a try, kicking a goal, or even kicking a field goal.

Scrum—A Rugby League scrum is formed by six players from each team that haunch over and push against each other. The Halfback from one of the teams then rolls the ball into the scrum and tries to regain it. Both teams are supposed to have an equal chance at getting the ball, but in reality the team that feeds the scrum almost always gets the ball back.

Turnover—Whenever a team loses the ball by getting tackled for the sixth time or knocking it on, it is called a turnover because the team is turning over possession to their opponents.


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