The Roar
The Roar


Context, monkeys and bananas: Why Slater should be cleared

Billy Slater will take the field on grand final day. It has been decided. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Roar Pro
23rd September, 2018

Despite the initial debate and controversy, most folk agree that banning the shoulder charge is sane.

The cost-benefit assessment is damning – a minor risk of head trauma outweighs all future YouTube highlights. And FYI – despite all the AC/DC and grainy slo-mos, I’m not going to subscribe to your “greatest hits” channel.

Now, before you shout me down, consider this – I agree that Billy Slater’s try-saver was, technically, a shoulder charge. And, as an engineer, I know only two kinds of correct – they’re called ‘technically’ and ‘not’.

Yep, I’ll admit it – by letter of the law, he didn’t use his arm. And, ergo facto, it was worthy of being cited. But here is where we differ.

People keep saying that you can’t change the rule based on circumstance. ‘Rules are rules’ I hear you say. And, while grammatically correct, this hardly makes sense. All rules are circumstantial.

I’ll posit there’s a fundamental difference between applying the strict lettering of a law and applying its intent. Let me explain by way of a famous experiment, and monkeys…

Five monkeys were put in a cage, plus a ladder, with five bananas at the top. Any time a monkey tried to climb the ladder, they’d all get doused with a hose. Pretty simple.

Before long the monkeys were self-policing – beating on anyone who even looked at the bananas. Then, one by one, each monkey was given a banana and immediately swapped out.

As predicted, as each new monkey went to climb the ladder, they were mercilessly beaten. No-one wanted the hose. After a while, the last of the original monkeys were gone, and so were the bananas.


However, the last new monkey still tried to climb the ladder, because, well, he’s still a monkey. And he still got roundly bashed.

My point? Well, it’s an allegory of how laws need to have context. With no bananas, there would be no hose. But the monkey still got beaten. And this is how we’re acting.

The Slater tackle isn’t an example of why the shoulder charge was banned. It wasn’t dangerous, it was a classic play. His citing is just a vagary of the need to write a rule. So why is it wrong for the game to acknowledge this?

I say strike down his citing – or risk beating him well after the bananas have gone…