End of shoulder charge means NRL is getting soft

Ben Pobjie Columnist

By Ben Pobjie, Ben Pobjie is a Roar Expert

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    After a career that's seen him represent Samoa and Queensland, Ben Te'o is on the verge of playing for England. (AAP Image/Action Photographics/Charles Knight)

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    I have been terribly worried. As a lover of sport, it is always a concern when developments suggest that one of my beloved sports may find itself imploding.

    Not just imploding, but sucking itself down the drain of irrelevance, collapsing from triumph and might to a state of decay and degradation, to become ranked among the Greco-Roman wrestlings and dwarf-tossings of the world.

    True sportophiles live in a state of constant fear that all they hold dear may be taken away.

    I felt my fears being realised when I read of the Ben Te’o affair, which has brought forth a terrible spectre: the chance that we may – oh, it’s painful to even type it – we may lose the shoulder charge from the game.

    And good God, wouldn’t that be the last straw? After all the tinkering and fiddling with the game we’ve seen over the years – a change to the stripping the ball rule here, an introduction of golden point there, a failure to force Ray Warren to retire in the middle – it would just be the final fly in the ointment, the last intolerable cockroach turd in the Mars Bar, if we were to lose the shoulder charge.

    Because after all, it’s the shoulder charge that makes rugby league such a rough, tough, knockabout, manly, piratical game to begin with. Without the shoulder charge, rugby league would basically just be netball with more sexual ambiguity.

    Take the shoulder charge away, and what are you supposed to do to a player running at you with the ball? Tackle him? With your arms? Yeah, great suggestion, grandma!

    I hardly think that a game full of people making actual tackles would be in the spirit of Dally Messenger. The great appeal of rugby league is that it has always been a real man’s man’s game, a game for the gruff no-nonsense inner woodchopper residing within us all.

    Rugby league is not a game for tacklers, it’s a game for people who can’t be bothered tackling, who consider tackling beneath them, who have the guts and grit to avoid tackling their opponent in favour of attempting to run into them like a blind dog crashing into the fridge, half missing, and allowing them to skip away through the defensive line while that big tough manly man goes spinning away harmlessly.

    Tackling, frankly, is for sissies.

    Just ask Ben Te’o, who gave moving testimony in his defence, saying he had simply tried to “hit him hard”.

    Exactly. That’s what our great game is all about – hitting people. Hard. Hard, brutal, inefficient hitting is the heart and soul of rugby league, and without it, watch the crowds plummet.

    The spectators will all rush off to watch the GWS Giants in the AFL, a competition where you’re not only allowed to shoulder charge, you can actually jump on other men’s backs. No contest.

    Sure, some people might say that shoulder charges can be “dangerous”, but isn’t being a rugby league player inherently dangerous anyway? Being a rugby league player’s girlfriend certainly is: fact is, it’s a dangerous game. If there isn’t a genuine threat of serious incapacitating injury occurring within the rules of the game, who cares?

    No, no, we must not ban the shoulder charge. In fact, we should go the other way and ban regulation tackling. Make it a rule that you can only tackle via shoulder charge. That’ll sort the men from the boys.

    Watch the bidding war for TV rights head skyward after every NRL game becomes a huge, frenetic human pinball game, massive men hurtling up and down the field, careening off each other, stopping only to have neck braces applied and count the trainer’s fingers. It’d be like a slightly slower, slightly more confusing version of ice hockey.

    We could of course take things further, in our efforts to bring out the animal nature of rugby league that is too often hidden behind a veil of quick footwork and metrosexuality. If players not only apply shoulder charges, but wear metallic spiked shoulder pads while doing so, the frisson of danger injected into the game would be positively riveting.

    Arming the players would help even more: if a shoulder charge is exciting, imagine how much more exciting it’d be if players could coathanger each other with golf clubs!

    There are many other ways to spice the NRL up – catapults, envenomed boots, trained dogs and so forth – but the first step must be to preserve the shoulder charge.

    The commission must throw out Te’o’s charge entirely, enshrine the shoulder charge in legislation, and snap-freeze Ray Warren in liquid nitrogen.

    Do it now, or lose our great game forever.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • April 13th 2012 @ 5:01am
      Rugby Realist said | April 13th 2012 @ 5:01am | ! Report

      Enjoyed the tongue in cheek nature of alot of your article, and the league pinball sounds great. But tongue in cheek or not (i couldn’t tell on this issue), why on earth would you want Ray Warren to retire?! He is still the best calls man in either of the rugby codes, from either of the hemispheres. For shame.

      • April 13th 2012 @ 3:26pm
        Jaceman said | April 13th 2012 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

        I agree with your tingue in cheek analysis response but I am assume you were doing the same saying Warren was the best caller in any rugby code – how can you tell – he is always arguing with gould over nothing or maybe thats the idea…

        • April 13th 2012 @ 8:39pm
          Rugby realist said | April 13th 2012 @ 8:39pm | ! Report

          Haha must be just me. I love Warren and his random comments, excitement, and quite simply, his voice.

    • April 13th 2012 @ 6:07am
      ManInBlack said | April 13th 2012 @ 6:07am | ! Report

      Yeah, noted the tongue in cheek aspect – but, left not sure what your position really is?

      All I can say re the shoulder charge is that like anything in a contact sport – – there needs to be risk and reward, and part of the risk of running through a guy is that if you don’t execute it correctly and you clobber his head – then you need to be held accountable. Simple.

      In AFL it’s now a case that the ‘shirtfront’ is almost out of the game, well, the deliberate pre-meditated one by pretty well thugs is out of the game. The shirtfront that occurs pretty well as a natural part of the game still exists. To me this is the thing, similar to taking a speccie – don’t go out there looking to do it all the time, but, Do be able to do it when the right moment presents.

    • April 13th 2012 @ 7:09am
      oikee said | April 13th 2012 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      I dont think it is possible to get rid of the shoulder charge. The other day i mentioned that every action has a reaction, who said that Einstein, Isaac Newton? anyhow the other day i seen the reaction to the shoulder charge. Mick Weyman when he hit Matt Gillet with his shoulder.
      So what we have here is a case of if, if you ban the shoulder charge , you would open up a whole can of worms for players not even being able to charge at defenders, it could be classed as a reverse shoulder charge open to claims of fowl play.

      You can not ban the shoulder charge, it is physically impossible to play the game without it, players are charging at the line, you only have to watxh a kickoff, what is the first thing a player , or forward does when he gets the ball, he charges into the defence, sometimes useing his shoulder.
      Case closed.

      • Columnist

        April 13th 2012 @ 11:41am
        Ben Pobjie said | April 13th 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        They banned it in rugby union, yet players still seem capable of charging at the line…

    • April 13th 2012 @ 7:26am
      baller said | April 13th 2012 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Another great yarn Ben,on the mark as always, oikee for mayor !! the man makes sense. I have seen bigger hits in the womens netball on a staurday arvo and these are normally being laid on by the women that do the morning school drop off and have to run home in time to watch ellen. We may as well start chucking helmets and pads on the players so it doesnt matter where they get hit next thing it will be the NFL’s poor cousin. Keep the hits coming its what makes our sport the best that it is if we take the shoulder charge out of the NRL then i reckon you will see a bunch of men at the netball courts on a saturday arvo to get there fix …………..

    • April 13th 2012 @ 7:29am
      eagleJack said | April 13th 2012 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      Maybe they could introduce Tazers similar to Ultimate Tazer Ball. The trouble is the players would spend the entire game unleashing on Jamie Soward as he did his little ballet routine before taking a kick!

    • April 13th 2012 @ 7:30am
      Andy said | April 13th 2012 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      “you can actually jump on other men’s backs.” Some men might rush off to watch the AFL but i won’t, that does not sound entertaining at all, also sounds like union. Ben Te’o’s suspension was no worse than any other one dealt out, and there is plenty of cases where the shoulder charge is not penalized at all. So it is safe to say the shoulder charge will stay.

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