STEVE TURNER: NRL needs to cut shoulder chargers some slack

Steve Turner Columnist

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    Does rugby league need to bring back the shoulder charge? (Image: AFP)

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    At the outset I’ll admit I never tried to make a shoulder charge tackle in my life. I was hit by one or two in my career – yet I believe they should remain a part of rugby league as we know and love it.

    The fans love the big collisions, and most of the players relish the thought of putting an opposing ball-carrier to ground in this most spectacular fashion.

    More often than not, shoulder tackles inspire teams to fire up and put more sting into their defence.

    Your teammate has put his body on the line to put a full stop on the attacker’s momentum – I think it’s an exciting element that should remain a part of rugby league.

    But the NRL has handed down its edict and I don’t think the guys at League HQ will bend in the slightest. The shoulder charge is banned – and probably banned forever.

    Having said that, I believe the code’s ruling body made a king-sized hash of outlawing this aspect of our game with a mere click of its fingers.

    League has always been a high collision sport and you cannot make such a drastic change to the rules without giving its exponents a fair degree of leniency.

    Perhaps it might have been wiser to give players warnings for shoulder charges during the course of this season with a view to policing it strictly from next year onwards.

    Players cannot change their on-field habits in an instant. And besides, many shoulder charges happen out of pure instinct, the tackler hasn’t got time to gets his arms in place to halt the charging ball carrier so he uses his body as a makeshift barrier,

    Sure, the results can be spectacular and often very painful for the ‘victim.’

    Of course, I realise that some shoulder charges go horribly wrong and fall into the ‘illegal contact’ category. The perpetrators should receive stiff suspensions to keep them on the straight and narrow and deter them from a repeat performance when they return to the field.

    There are so many grey areas that the shoulder charge issue is bordering on pitch black.

    Players and coaches are going to start screaming about it and the referees are going to be in two minds about their on-field reactions.

    Manly’s Richie Fa’aoso hammered Titan Ashley Harrison late and will probably do some time for his indiscretion.

    After watching the video closely, I say it was an accidental head clash that did the damage and caused the Harrison knockout – not the shoulder charge itself.

    Richie will probably get a few games penalty, but mainly because his tackle was late.

    I now ask about Parra’s Chrissy Sandow. In my view, he did three shoulder charges in the game against the Tigers yet he faces… nothing.

    Is that because he’s a little guy and the match officials think his rivals are bumping him off?

    As I said earlier, too many grey areas and I think 2013 should have been a season in which players were warned that all forms of shoulder charges are going to be outlawed and that they had six months to get it out of their system.

    Anyway, what about the Gold Coast? They have had a fantastic start to the year and when you look back to their narrow two-point loss to the Sharks in Round 1, they could easily be riding high with Melbourne and South Sydney as unbeaten leaders.

    I really liked the grit and composure they showed to topple the Sea Eagles. Young halves Albert Kelly and Aiden Sezer have been standouts over the first few rounds and the team has a heck of a lot to offer.

    The form of big names Jamal Idris and Dave Taylor has also been very encouraging. John Cartwright’s men were hardly thought of as a top eight team in the pre-season predictions but they have the talent and momentum to really go on with it.

    They are a good team to watch – I hope the Titans convert their early promise into a finals appearance.

    Recently retired Bulldogs winger Steve Turner joins The Roar today as an expert NRL columnist. Over a 10 year career, Turner played 164 first grade matches, including 105 for the Melbourne Storm.

    Steve Turner
    Steve Turner

    Steve Turner is a retired rugby league player currently employed at the Canterbury Bulldogs as the club's content producer. He is a regular at both ABC Grandstand and Fox Sports News. Steve played 161 NRL games for the Panthers, the Storm and the Bulldogs, as well as one game for the NSW Origin team and one game for City Origin. He played in the 2006, 07, 08 and 09 NRL grand finals. Twitter- @SteveTurner84