Roosters coach Trent Robinson and Souths counterpart Wayne Bennett agree that rewarding classical legs tackles would help the NRL’s quest to limit high shots.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says the only thing wrong with the NRL’s crackdown on high shots is the timing.
Robinson stressed players need an off-season to re-learn how to tackle low, while he urged his counterparts, who are lamenting the fall of rugby league as we knew it, to “calm down”.
12 players have been sin-binned and Canberra prop Josh Papalii sent off across five games at Brisbane’s Magic Round so far, with the NRL-era round record of 14 sin-bins in clear danger of being broken on Sunday.
The sudden rise has come as part of a two-pronged crackdown across the game on high tackles and repeated ruck infringements, with the NRL desperate to eradicate dangerous contact and the deliberate slow-down of attack.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart and Canterbury opposite Trent Barrett both took aim at the edict after their Saturday game, Barrett likening it to Oztag and Stuart declaring it was becoming a “completely different game”.
Cowboys coach Todd Payten agreed that the physicality he’s always loved in rugby league appeared to be disappearing and that it should “go back to the way it was”.
But Robinson, who has seen up-close the toll concussion has on a player with the recent forced retirement of Jake Friend and battles of captain Boyd Cordner, was more measured.
“I’ve heard some people say ‘it’s not the Game 1 remember’ – just calm down, we’ll get there and get it right,” he said.
“There’s been an over-compensation (this weekend) that’s easy to see but we need to tackle lower, we can’t just loosely have head highs and go, ‘I didn’t mean it’.
“We need to get better at not hitting others in the head.
“We only had two head highs in the game and both were sin-binned, whereas in a normal game we’d have five, maybe? So it worked in our game.”
Robinson agreed the trend to gang-tackle a player above their waste to slow the play-the-ball had meant a classical one-on-one legs tackle, which allows for a quicker play-the-ball, was now rarely seen or coached.
Querying the Round 10 introduction of the edict, he said players needed an off-season to learn that technique and that it needed to be rewarded by officials.
Robinson has the support of Penrith coach Ivan Cleary and Rabbitohs mentor Wayne Bennett, who would love to see “the greatest tackle in the game” return.
“One of the anomalies of the game is you make a beautiful legs tackle and they just roll straight out of it (or get penalised for hanging on too long),” Bennett said.
“That’s what brought in all the higher stuff; the coaches wanted to dictate that on-the-ground situation, slow the play-the-balls down and there’s no reward for a beautiful legs tackle.
“Let’s get the legs tacklers back.”