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

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • Roar Pro

      March 26th 2013 @ 10:02am
      itsuckstobeyou said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      G’day Steve. Congratulations on a great career. I’m sure the Bulldogs fans are devastated to see you go.

      I wrote a similar article on the subject:

      I can’t for the life of me understand why any sport would introduce a rule that is so grey, as you put it. They need to take a stance one way or the other.

      Advocates of the ban will say Fa’aoso charge shows the NRL is taking a tough stance. But as you have correctly said, the fact that it was late and there was contact with the head would suggest that the charge would have been the same last year. Not to mention the number of shoulder charges that appear to go unchecked by the likes of Sandow.

      I’m confused. I’d just like the matter cleared up.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 10:27am
        turbodewd said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        You’re 100% right, the Foa’oso hit was also very late.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 12:21pm
        Dog said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        I believe the rule is clear. You must use your arms. It is up to this official to do the policing (that is another discussion point). I would submit that a very, very, very small percentage of shoulder charges are instinctive. I would pretty much guarantee bloke about to drop his shoulder on another guy is thinking, “I’m going to smash this bloke!” Wholly premeditated.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 10:04am
      turbodewd said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      I agree that the shoulder charge ban is over the top. They simply should punish any contact with the ball carrier’s head, whether it comes from a shoulder charge or legal/illegal tackle, etc. Fa’oso’s shoulder charge included a headclash, while not deliberate, it could be called careless and he should get a few wks coz it knocked out Harrison.

      Allow the shoulder charge, but suspend for almost any significant head contact of the ball carrier.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 10:28am
        oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Notice the only player streached off in 3 rounds was Harrison because of a shoulder charge.
        Let it go. The best games all weekend were free flowing footy games. And like i said below , not a shoulder charge in sight.

        Someone posted the game is tough enough without shoulder charges, and it was also right to get rid of the clothsline tackle and the spear tackle. They are not needed and not welcomed back either.
        The cuts, splits, claret in the game last night between Knights Cows was enough to keep the wine club going for a year. But not one major headclash. Now imagine all that ruined by a silly shoulder charge headclash.
        Again, the game is tough enough. We dont need silly shoulder charges.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 10:16am
      eagleJack said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Great article Steve and welcome to the Roar! Its a shame your career got cut short by injury but Im sure you have many highlights to look back on.

      I agree entirely with the sentiments of your article. The difference being I don’t have a problem with the outlawing of the shoulder charge. The studies on the damage to the head and brain are just too confronting for the league to simply do nothing.

      My issue is, as you point out, the many greay areas. How is Sandow not penalised 3 or 4 times per game? It is the “act” that should be penalised not the outcome. That is, just because his shoulder charges are doing no damage at all doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be penalised. That is the only way to send the message that the shoulder charge, no matter how insignificant, will not be tolerated.

      And I would love for the NRL to explain how Billy Slater received a Grade 1 dangerous contact charge for his late shoulder charge on Winterstein, while Fa’aoso received a Grade 3. Both were late hits that knocked the other player unconcious. Slater was free to play the following week, Fa’aoso will miss atleast 3 weeks.

      Double standards appearing already with this new rule. And if the NRL don’t act upon it, it will simply be another case of them having zero control at a higher level.

      • Roar Guru

        March 26th 2013 @ 12:29pm
        The Barry said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        I agree about the inconsistency – Slater’s was a pure shoulder charge, hit Winterstein in the head, knocked him out and Slater gets a garde 1.

        Injuries shouldn’t determine the penalty.

        A shoulder charge that hits someone in the head shouldn’t be treated any more harshly than a head high tackle.

        I still have a problem with a shoulder to shoulder charge that results in a penalty – eg Nathan Merrit’s hit against Cronulla or George Rose’s shot on Morris in the all-stars.

        Neither was a ‘cheap shot’ and with the defender wrong footed in both instances the only legitimate tackle option. Certainly better than throwing out an arm while off balance.

        • March 26th 2013 @ 1:15pm
          eagleJack said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Very good point TB in relation to the Rose hit on Morris in the All Stars. Purely instinctive after being wrong footed by a quicker man. Not pre-meditated as people are saying all shoulder charges are.

          Now as players over time make adjustments in techniques due to the new rules, the Rose tackle will result in him throwing out his arm and smashing Morris across the chops. And that will do far more damage.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 10:16am
      oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      G’day Steve, nice to see you posting, but your off to a terrible start mate.
      Mate have you been living under a rock. Head clashes are caused by shoulder charges, is that hard to understand. Go have a look at the head clashes of the past, most are from shoulder charges that have crept up, or the players ‘g’ forces causing his head to whip-lash into the defenders head.
      Getting your head in the wrong spot tackling is one thing, but running flat out at someone with your shoulder ready as a weapon is a lawsuit waiting to happen,.
      Nice to see you blogging on the roar. Welcome, but you wont be getting any love on this one mate,. Thje game has been great so far without the shoulder charge this year.
      Best 2 games i have watched, Panthers/bunnies,,Dragons/Raiders, fantastic, and not a shoulder charge in site.
      Let it go mate. If you want to fix something, fix the obstruction rule before Daniel Anderson has created just a boring catch pass senario. (if players are running straight lines, it is not obstruction, if they get the ball they have to be tackled). Daniel does not seem to understand this, he is just allowing players to now run into the decoys so they get a soft penalty, we all can see this is wrong)
      That is the problem,,,,,,,obstructuion rule gone mad.
      and the shoulder charge is dead, Fa’aoso should cop his 4 weeks and think himself lucky,. If Harrison was Prince or a Small halfback, maybe we are talking brain damage today.
      Let it go, you wont ever win a bring back the biff, or shoulder charge. Leave that for dinosaurs like Reg Reagon.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 10:21am
        planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Oikee he got love from the first 3 respondents. I think you must have been on the end of the odd shoulder charge. The Fa’oaso tackle would have been legal last year.

        Also Oikee just the odd movement from one of his arms and this one would have been legal as well. Harrison was badly positioned and a head on tackle without a shoulder would have seen him carried off as well. If he brings that crappy play to any ground anywhere he will be leaving the same way every week.

        • March 26th 2013 @ 10:29am
          eagleJack said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          Yep, run to the line, turn your back and offload and you are going to get hit. Halfbacks learn early that it is a stupid play, after they get annihilated for their trouble.

          This one happened to be a little late. If Fa’aoso had wrapped his arms I still think a headclash would have ensued. In any case he deserves to spend some time on the sidelines. But so did Slater. Consistency anyone?

        • March 26th 2013 @ 10:34am
          oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          Yes, the penalty depends on how bad the tackle is, another player got hit by a shoulder charge. All that happened was a penalty because both players got back up.
          But Harrison was streacher job. Hit without knowing what hit him, and his head got g-forced sideways into Fa’oaso’s head.

          I know Fa’oaso did not mean intent, that is why he is only going to get 4 weeks.

          Burns got life for a not as bad high tackle. I think this is about right, they need to set the standard and they will i hope.
          As i said, only one shoulder charge, one player streachered off. So the shoulder charge is the problem weather most see it or not. And lawsuits will be out if it ever comes back and someone is put into a coma.

          • March 26th 2013 @ 10:42am
            eagleJack said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:42am | ! Report

            oiks as an astute advocae of banning the shoulder charge, what are your thoughts of Slater on Winterstein? High, late shoulder charge that knocks a player unconcious and requires him to be taken from the field.

            I know Billy can do no wrong in your eyes but surely even you can see the inconsistency there?

            • March 26th 2013 @ 10:55am
              oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:55am | ! Report

              No, i stuck up for Slater on the kick to the head. Klemmer was offside and ran at Slater like a bull.

              As for the Winterstein incident, i never noticed. If he went in with his shoulder, than yes, he should have been charged. Why would i say he should not be charged.
              Look, i even think Fa’oaso is not trying to hurt anyone, he just made a natural mistake. We all can see that, but still, he did use his shoulder and only 4 games is about right, if it was Slater i would be happy to see 4 games punishment.
              I never watched the Slater incident. Was it just a tackle or more. I was watching the play unfold.
              I seen Winterstein hurt, yet not much was said at the time by commontators.
              Anyhow, no biase from me.
              If it was Brett Stewart i would have said the same thing, Klemmer offside, going in for his legs. Slater never kicked out. I am still looking for studmarks on Klemmers face, yet to be produced. The kid got back up, Billy got penalised, they did not even get Klemmer for being off-side. ?
              You can make up your own mind on that one. He was supposed to give him 10 metres, not rushing at him like a baby bull.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 12:42pm
                planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                But brett stewart has not done it before and billy has used the feet first method several times. This is not a one off and he has form on it.

          • March 26th 2013 @ 11:29am
            planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 11:29am | ! Report

            Oikee you are missing the point. His shoulder did not touch his head. If he had performed a legal front on tackle he would still be on the stretcher.

            • March 26th 2013 @ 12:30pm
              oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

              No your missing the point. To be honest i dont know why your missing the point.
              Everyone must have seen those car crash slow motion ads on TV.
              Where the car starts to hit the wall, the drivers head imediately goes foward into a whiplash motion and then his head hits the windshield and blood guts everywhere.,

              You seen this, or you been under a rock somewhere out in the desert.
              Mate they cant provide proof any more evident than this, case closed, if you still want to argue, i dont, i talk to brick walls every day and i dont mean you.
              I am just making a point.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 12:36pm
                planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                The whip lash motion due the fact he was standing turned away from the defence would have happened whether the tackle was legal of not. Even if someone drove in from the hips harrison would have been in serious trouble. The head clash caused this problem not the shoulder. If he had been taken head on legally he would have been stretchered off.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 12:40pm
                oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

                No he wouldn’;t, if he drove in from the hips he would not have clashed heads.
                His head knocked him out caused by a shoulder charge.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 12:43pm
                planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                We disagree mate that head clashed could have occured easily with a normal tackle whilst standing and you know that.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:03pm
                oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                That is then a accident, not a shoulder charge. Why are you fighting me on this, you cant win,.

                Look, i will say it again, plenty of accidents accure in the game,. Why then would you want to add to this by allowing a shoulder charge which has been shown below in that report to cause 70% of head clashes.
                Do you need 100% and someone in a Coma before you act. ?
                Come on, prevention is the best medicine,. this has been proven.
                When your dead, your dead, no magic potion to bring you back.

                I have enjoyed this round of footy, it has been fantastic. My team lost, well most of my teams lost and i still have thought it is brilliant.
                The shoulder charge is least than point….00000025 of the game. let it go.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:07pm
                planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

                I can’t win why do you keep responding … I don’t agree with you that this tackle was that bad. There was a head clash. A lot of people don’t believe in banning the should charge at all. I think any contact by the shoulder on the head should be banned. There was no contact from the shoulder on the head. I know you don’t like but a lot of people don’t agree with you not just me.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:11pm
                oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                Your still not understanding, when you come in with a shoulder charge your also making your own head a weapon. This is why it is now banned.
                The g-forces from sudden impact are what is causing players to be knocked out. It is not so much the shoulder charge itself, it is the fact your head keeps going while your body suddenly stops.

                Mate they have done tests on this, testing after testing, and the results are not good.

                The bigger problem is the fact they know about this, if you dont do something about this, well then it is called neglect, and then you open yourself to lawsuits and litigation.
                Surely you dont need more convincing.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:13pm
                planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

                First rule you are taught playing rugby league is where to put head in a tackle. Second do not turn you back on the defence. Harrison broke rule no 2.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:18pm
                oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                Harrison was turning to pass the ball, he should never have been hit with a shoulder charge.
                First rule in rugby league is obey the rules.
                Second rule is trying to make a wrong right wont work. When your wrong your wrong, i am here to right wrongs. Fa’aoso was wrong, your wrong trying to right wrongs. There is a time and place to right wrongs, this is not the right time or the right place.

                I do hope that confused you, it all makes sense to me.

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:18pm
                planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                Btw Oikee I am done on this who are your other teams don’t tell me it is SOUTH and EASTS ?

              • March 26th 2013 @ 1:24pm
                oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

                Warriors Cows and Knights, at a push i will go for the Storm as well.
                I still like the Broncos, just not now.
                I really am against Sydney teams looking at that, ok i am biased but i plead innocent as i did not know i was guilty. What does that make me, ? a honest crook. hehe

    • Roar Guru

      March 26th 2013 @ 11:03am
      sheek said | March 26th 2013 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      Shoulder charges are basically for people who are lazy, have poor technique & are caught up in their own macho ego.

      They are dangerous & are no substitute for good tackling technique.

      I also consider shoulder charges cowardly because often the ball carrier isn’t in the best position to adequately defend himself.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 12:11pm
      NickF said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

      “AN NRL study has found there is 70 times more risk of a player being injured by a shoulder charge than a normal tackle. ”
      This is a quote from an article today. This shouldn’t be news to any one.

      And I am sick of the “Man up” and “Rugby league is a collision sport” arguments, as if there is something un masculine about disliking shoulder charges. That’s a cheap shot, a bit like a shoulder charge on a player who is blindsided.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 12:38pm
        oikee said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        As i said, when there kid is in the coma and they are beside the bed with only hope and wondering why they supported the shoulder charge, only then will they wake up.
        In the mean time you and me, we are the champions of getting rid the shoulder charge, and we wont be beaten.
        It is the same reason why i will never ever be fore legalizing marijuana, when you know for a fact that schizophrenia is a direct result of smoking the mary-jane, and have been through the hardships of a young kid who suffered directly from this, then your Clarity is quite clear, and no amount of it does not hurt will change your mind. facts are facts.

        Prevention is the best medicine. Safety walks and preventative measures was why my company had a five star safety record.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 12:41pm
        planko said | March 26th 2013 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

        I do fundamentally agree with the ban but I for

        1) consistancy there has been several done and cause it was not a big guy nothing has happened.
        2) Players have been playing this way for long time and the white line is a funny thing.

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