The Roar
The Roar


Rugby league must ban the third man in tackles

Alex McKinnon's injury has not seen dangerous throws eradicated from rugby league. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Brett Crockford)
Roar Pro
8th June, 2015

As the 15-man game continues to struggle with its rules, rugby league has a chance to solidify its claims to being the greatest game of all by allowing only two players to make a tackle.

This is not a totally unique idea, but what’s stunning when you weigh up the pros and cons of the concept is that it hasn’t been discussed more extensively or even experimented with on the field.

This change would go a long way towards eliminating two of the biggest problems modern day rugby league faces: the speed of the ruck and dangerous tackles.

When players get injured badly in tackles it’s often the third man in the tackle that played a key role in the tackle becoming dangerous. Yet the only role the third tackler plays is assisting to ensure a dominant tackle is completed so his team’s defence gets more time to set itself.

Limiting the number of tacklers would be a fairly easy rule to enforce. If administrators wanted to allow more than two people in tackles when teams were defending their try lines they could clearly mark a five-metre zone to show where teams could then switch to using additional tacklers.

It shouldn’t take players much to adjust to this rule. During the Auckland Nines it was tactically unwise to have more than two in a tackle, so we hardly ever saw a third man in.

Admittedly it would be a major move away from tradition to limit the number of tacklers, but players were much smaller traditionally and wrestling wasn’t even a term people associated with rugby league for most of last century.

It’s exciting just contemplating the rugby league product that fans would view if we ever saw this rule change. Instigating this change rather than worrying about the past could ensure that rugby league clearly shows itself to be the greatest game of all.