No NRL coach will be as relieved as Canterbury’s Trent Barrett after the NRL announced a big shake-up to the judiciary system on the eve of the new season.
League Central confirmed on Thursday players will no longer receive automatic bans for shoulder charges, crusher tackles and striking.
Crucially for Barrett, loading points for previous offences have been scrapped and all players have been given a clean slate for round one.
Barrett’s forward pack includes Jack Hetherington, Tevita Pangai Jr and English forward Luke Thompson, all of whom have received lengthy suspensions for on-field discipline over the last two years.
“It’s a good move by the NRL,” Barrett said ahead of Sunday’s season-opener away to the North Queensland Cowboys.
“We have discussed the loading before and how it disadvantages you and some of the guys on our side who it did affect.
“It’s good news for a couple of our individuals and I’m sure they’ll be breathing a sigh of relief.
“A minor slip-up was resulting in a week or two on the sidelines and we don’t want our best players missing games through small indiscretions.”
Barrett’s side will be looking for a strong start to the year after a roster rebuild following a 2021 season where they collected just three wins and the wooden spoon.
The Bulldogs struggled for fluidity in their two trial games, but Barrett said he expected them to hit the ground running against the Cowboys.
“There are some things we need to iron out but we expect to be good this weekend,” he said.
“We want to improve on our last two trials and it was good to get those out of the road.”
Barrett has named his strongest team with the only disputable selection being the omission of 20-year-old centre Aaron Schoupp for off-season recruit Braidon Burns.
Schoupp was one of the Dogs’ best in 2021 but Barrett felt he needed the more experienced hand of Burns against the Cowboys.
“Schouppy is a young player who did some really good things for us last season and he’s got some things he needs to work on,” he said.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but Braidon’s got an opportunity this year coming over from Souths and he’s a calm head and that’s what I think we needed heading into this game.
“He’s still only (Jersey) Flegg age, Schouppy, so he’ll certainly get his chance.”