1906–07 Northern Rugby Football Union season
|League||Northern Rugby League|
|Number of teams||26|
|Top point-scorer(s)||James Lomas 280|
|Top try-scorer(s)||Percy Eccles 41|
During a meeting held on 12 June 1906 at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, the members of the Northern Union agreed to adopt two rule changes that would distinguish the sport thereafter. The Northern Union, motivated by the need to appeal to spectators to improve the game's finances and ensure its survival, and inspired by the attacking style of rugby displayed by the New Zealand rugby union team during their 1905 tour of Britain, revisited two areas of the game that were the focus of much debate: the optimum number of players per team and how play should continue once a tackle had been completed.
- The play-the-ball rule was introduced. Previously after each tackle had been completed or a player had been "held" the rules mandated that a scrum be ordered by the referee. These scrums had taken up a significant portion of game time and it was felt that the ball was hidden from spectators too often as a result, diminishing the game's entertainment value.
- The play-the-ball restored the early rugby football principle that play does not carry on when the player is no longer standing, but that a tackle is complete when a player is "held" on the ground or while on their feet. The Yorkshire Post commented on 13 June 1906 that the, "proposals in the name of the Bradford Club, provided in effect for a return to the 'play the ball' rule". In New Zealand, a newspaper column in The Truth on 10 November 1906 while describing the sport to its readers wrote, "the most excellent rule, that was obliterated from the earlier laws of the Union has again been introduced, 'That a player, when collared, must put the ball into play'."
- This version of the play-the-ball was used until the 1927–28 season when it was replaced by a 1926 Australian development in which the play-the-ball consisted of two defensive markers, the tackled player and the acting half-back.
- The Northern Union reduced the number of players on a team from fifteen to thirteen following approval by the clubs of a proposal by Warrington. In New Zealand, a newspaper column in The Truth (10 November 1906) describing the sport noted the intention, "to make the game brighter from a spectacular view-point".
- There had been support, stronger among northern clubs, for a reduction in the number of players before the 1895 schism but this had not been taken any further because of the Rugby Football Union's threats of sanctions as part of their campaign against professionalism. Since its founding, the NU had trialled games with different numbers of players at various times.
- If a ball was kicked out of play on the full, a scrum back where it had been kicked from would now be formed.
This season also saw the introduction of the Championship Play-offs at the end of the season. Similar to the current Grand Final system in today's Super League, it involved the top four clubs playing in two semi finals (1v4, 2v3) and then a final with the winners being declared champions. This system was used until 1961-62.
Liverpool City joined, but Brighouse Rangers, Castleford, Millom, Morecambe, and Normanton withdrew, reducing the competition to 27 teams. Pontefract resigned from the league and folded after 8 matches, and their record was expunged (8P 3W 5L 63PF 154PA).
Bradford had been playing at the Park Avenue ground until this year. A decision by the Park Avenue Directors to form a professional association football (soccer) club forced Bradford rugby club to reform and relocate at Greenfield Stadium later adding "Northern" to their name.
New Zealand toured England this season. On 28 December 1907, they defeated Salford 9-2 in front of 9,000 spectators.
|13||Hull Kingston Rovers||32||15||0||17||390||366||30||46.87|
|27||Pontefract||Club folded, record expunged||N/A|
- 1906-07 Rugby Football League season at wigan.rlfans.com
- The Challenge Cup at The Rugby Football League website
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