NRL is overreacting on shoulder charges
The NRL came out yesterday with a curious announcement that, one week out from the finals, it would send any shoulder charge which made contact with a player’s head or neck straight to the judiciary without any grading.
This process is usually reserved for the most extreme cases of foul play, and it usually results in a player missing a large chunk of the season through suspension.
Looking past the fact the NRL are looking to change the rules one week out from the finals, which is ridiculous in itself, let’s focus on the issue of shoulder charges.
If the NRL wants to crack down on players getting head and neck injuries, hence reducing the risk of concussion, that is great. Rugby league is a hard game as it is, and the last thing we need is for players’ heads and necks to be targeted in tackles.
However, what makes contact with a player’s head or neck worse in a shoulder charge than it is in any other tackle? Why is hitting a player in the head with a shoulder charge worse than hitting him in the head with a swinging arm?
It is a curious ruling that I think sends the wrong message. It is counterproductive. Today, instead of players, coaches and even fans talking about reducing the risk of injury, everyone is instead talking about players being suspended!
Rugby League is a tough sport. In every game, we see very large human beings colliding at speed hundreds of times. When this happens, accidents are going to happen. The days of players going out to knock an opposition player’s head off are decades in the past. Anyone who gets hit in the head or neck these days is the victim of an accident.
I would suggest that more players get hurt trying to make tackles than with the ball in hand. So where is the NRL going to draw the line? Will we soon see ball runners penalised if they knock a defender out?
Shoulder charges are as much a part of the game as any other type of tackle. They rarely happen, but they happen, and most of them don’t make contact with a player’s head or neck.
The NRL needs to think about what the end goal is when it comes to suspending players. If the goal is to protect players from head and neck injuries as much as possible, handing out massive suspensions for accidents will not change anything. It will not lower the rate at which these accidents happen, and it certainly won’t undo any damage done to a player who falls victim to a high tackle.
This smells like a public relations move. A stupid, reactionary decision that some marketing type in a suit thought would win points with those fictional mums and dads out there who supposedly stop their kids from playing rugby league every time they see a player getting injured.
Some have suggested this is a move to avoid litigation in the future by players who have suffered head injuries. I don’t see it. There are a thousand ways in which a player can suffer head and neck injuries.
If we said players could not tackle above the waist, players would still get knocked unconscious! It just happens. So if a former player is looking to sue the NRL, they are going to do it, no matter what rules and regulations the NRL puts in place now or in the future.
If the NRL is that terrified of facing future lawsuits it should look at player contracts. It should work with the RLPA on an insurance scheme to help players who face problems because of concussion, in return for some protection from lawsuits.
To come up with an extreme reaction as they have will make no difference whatsoever to what happens on the field. All it is going to do is rob players of important time on the field through suspension, even if they just happened to be involved in an accident.
It is a ridiculous move, and a black mark against the game’s new administration.