There is no war on the shoulder charge in the NRL
That shoulder charge on Chris Sandow (Image: AFP)
Contrary to popular belief, the shoulder charge isn’t heading the same way as the dinosaur. You won’t see it in some rugby league hall of fame, gathering dust next to the Winfield Cup.
A tour guide won’t be telling a group of interested on-lookers that the practice was outlawed for good in 2012 because of too many injuries.
Outrage often overshadows reality and the shoulder charge debate is running rampant on the former and in desperate need of the latter.
Cronulla forward Wade Graham produced two shoulder charges against Brisbane on Friday night. It has once again put the argument up in lights.
The first left Broncos fullback Josh Hoffman concussed after his head came into contact with Graham’s shoulder.
Hoffman dropped the ball in the in-goal area and the Sharks pounced on it.
The try was disallowed after the video referee ruled Graham had collected Hoffman high.
The score would have been 20-nil with a kick to come if the four-pointer had been awarded.
The second shot left Broncos winger Gerard Beale dazed, but not confused.
This time, the shoulder connected with Beale’s chest.
The referee blew his whistle, but only after Jeremy Smith had thrown himself on Beale and wrapped his right arm around his head for good measure.
Outrage says the penalty was for the shoulder charge. Reality tells you it was for Smith unnecessarily hitting Beale in the head when the winger was on the ground.
There is no war on aggression.
The war is on head injuries and concussion.
It’s not a good look for the game when players are reduce to a crumpled mess of adrenaline and muscle.
Rugby league players are painted as bullet-proof, but the head of an athlete and the head of a couch potato both have the same frailties.
Graham was penalised because he made contact with Hoffman’s head and not because of some battle to rid the game of big hits.
Yes, it was accidental contact. Graham didn’t intend to leave Hoffman in a world of pain, but he did.
The shoulder charge still has a place in the game.
It’s a spectacular part of a brutal sport that uses its physicality as a key selling point.
Players just have to make sure that the shoulder makes contact below the chin.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.
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