A plea to keep shoulder charges
So I am writing this while still in a daze through a combination of recklessness, a steep slope, and a skateboard that landed on the back of my head on the pavement, resulting in what’s commonly known as a concussion.
It was a scary experience; I found myself disorientated and my limbs numb moments after the fall, and it was minutes after that I was only able to get up on my feet.
My mates, who just so happen to be medicine students, were terrified at first, then they got excited and started to discuss amongst themselves. All I heard were words like instant death and hemorrhaging; not how I planned to spend my Sunday night.
This got my remaining operating brain cells thinking, is the NRL on the right path attempting to progressively phase out the shoulder charge era?
Sports codes around the world have been taking a more active role in regards to concussion concerns; they now understand that concussion is a major contributor to later severe brain damage and in a bid to protect themselves from a class lawsuit, they are taking a straight lined approach in preventing head injuries.
I can understand why some sports need to proactively ban certain concussion inducing tackling techniques; after all, players these days are bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic, and the impact when they run into each other is on a different magnitude as it was back in the day.
But should rugby league get rid of shoulder charges? I was sold for a second, being someone who just got concussed. But then I realised why I love playing both codes of rugby; the fun part is just giving an opponent a solid shot.
Bone crunching tackles are what players aim for; it’s basically the equivalent of a dunk in basketball, it’s a statement to your teammates, your opponents and people who are watching.
We might come off like Chris Sandow at times, but when we pull them off, it’s the best feeling in the world to hear the gasps.
See rugby league was designed to be gasp inducing; the lack of rucking, mauling and scrumming allows for a high-octane offense; shoulder charges are legal because as far as entertainment goes, a player in full speed running into a shoulder can hardly be topped.
It’s the identity of the sport; without it, players might as well play a game of touch footy instead. Shoulder charge is what makes Souths players feel like they are Russell Crowe’s fellow gladiators; it is what gives a small guy like Sandow the irrational confidence to against all odds, induce fear amongst physically bigger players; it is how Greg Inglis declares to opponents that ‘you shall not pass’.
There will be injuries inflicted by shoulder charges, which come hand in hand with the sport, but players knew what they sign up for when they run onto the field.
The sport should instead focus on outlawing other aspects of the game that not only contribute to severe injuries but are fundamentally in conflict with the spirit of the game.