NRL big hits: Inglis’ shoulder charge and the Blues’ next coach
Greg Inglis and Trent Merrin face off. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee Mckay
Last week, I wrote an article about how the NRL had sustained the fantastic momentum built up by the State of Origin series, even though there is traditionally a bit of a lull after the hyped interstate battle.
This was based on some fantastic football on the park, and plenty of dramatic headlines off it.
And so it continued this weekend, with plenty of talking points coming out of round 20.
The Bulldogs winning streak hit eight with a sensational victory over Manly at Fortress Brookvale, which moved them to the top of the competition ladder. Likewise, the Rabbitohs continued their impressive form of late, again looking the goods in disposing of the Dragons.
Both victories had fans dreaming of an all Sydney NRL grand final, however, such talk is premature, and there were plenty of other relevant topics to discuss after the weekend’s footy.
Though none bigger than Greg Inglis’ shoulder charge on Dean Young, and the ramifications of Stephen Kearney getting sacked by the Parramatta Eels.
I was watching the Rabbitohs versus Dragons game live, and my first impression of the Greg Inglis shoulder charge was that it was a brutal, but legal hit. It seemed like Inglis’ upper arm/shoulder hit Young’s chest, with the resulting impact knocking the Dragons forward out cold.
Upon watching the replay, I felt that while there was some residual impact on the jaw, the hit was still OK. It did seem to me that the first point of contact was not Young’s head, and that it was simply a very unfortunate accident.
However, it soon became quite evident that I was in the minority. The vast majority of people seemed the think the hit was illegal, with many even believing that Inglis should have been sent off.
I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong, and I clearly was in my initial reaction to the shoulder charge.
The bottom line is that players have a duty of care not to injure their fellow players. While I maintain that it was accident, the fact is that it was somewhat avoidable, and Inglis should have had the presence of mind to pull back on his desired impact, or at least change the type of tackle he was going to execute on Young.
I personally don’t believe there was a lot in the incident. It was not a ‘dog act’ or ‘cheap shot’, as many Dragons fans are claiming. I think Inglis’ towering height was the crucial factor in the tackle going awry. It’s important to remember that rugby league is a contact sport, and when you have elite athletes running hard at each other, accidents are going to happen.
But regardless, it’s the responsibility of the tackler to not impact the attacking player’s head. The head must remain sacrosanct, and offending players must be punished accordingly in order to discourage any notion of going anywhere near an opponent’s head.
If you do, the margin for error becomes very small, and the game can’t have players being stretchered off the field. Plain and simple.
I’d be happy to see Inglis get anywhere between 1-3 weeks suspension – depending of his plea – but nothing more.
The second big hit from the weekend was less violent, yet will have much larger ramifications upon rugby league.
It was quite strange that Stephen Kearney was sacked during the week, yet still coached against the Melbourne Storm on Saturday night. Even weirder, while in the process of upsetting the competition leaders and therefore departing the Eels as a winner, the rumours circulated at halftime that Ricky Stuart had signed on with Parramatta.
It was a bizarre set of circumstances.
The decision by the Eels to sign Stuart, once confirmed, obviously impacts upon the New South Wales Blues team, as at this stage the NSWRL continue to insist that a club coach cannot fulfil dual duties.
So it seems NSW will have a new man at the helm next year. But who will it be?
Blues assistant Trent Barrett, NSW Country coach Laurie Daley, NSW City coach Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns were immediately trumpeted to be the favourites. This quick shortlist was compiled by the media because none have club coaching commitments, all have strong ties to the Blues, and all understand what Origin is all about.
However, Johns has already ruled himself out. Showing great self awareness – which was sadly lacking during certain times in his life – Johns stated that there is no chance of him applying for the role, because he has no head coaching experience, and he doesn’t think he’s up to the pressure involved.
That leaves Barrett, Daley and Fittler, though I’m almost certain other candidates will emerge.
As great as all three ex-five eighths were as players, their coaching experience is either limited, unimpressive, or both. However, you could have levelled the same charge against Mal Meninga when he took over the Queensland Maroons.
At this very early stage, Barrett would have to be the favourite, as he’s the current Blues assistant coach. That obviously means he’s been around the playing group, and can offer a sense of continuity despite Stuart moving on.
However, I’m sure the speculation on who will be the next Blues coach is only in its diapers.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.