‘Attacking players falling into high tackles’. ‘Head clashes’.
‘It was an accident’.
We’ve heard plenty of this over the past couple of weeks.
‘What could he do? He can’t disappear. It’s a collision sport’.
There are four tackles in particular over the past two weeks that I want to draw your attention to.
Lindsay Collins on Morgan Boyle, Jake Turpin on Victor Radley, Tariq Sims on Connor Tracey, and Dale Finucane on Stephen Crichton.
Before I break down the tackles themselves, let’s be clear that these were all hardcore head shots. Crichton’s ear was split in half. Radley immediately had blood gushing from a head wound. Collins and Tracey were both heavily concussed and taken from the field, Tracey in a stretcher.
Against Manly, Collins tried to assert his authority, rush out of the line and “put a hit” in Manly forward Boyle. His technique was to charge in wildly and body check Boyle. With a head at head height tackle, the almost inevitable happened and head-on-head contact occurred.
Collins – who’d only just come back from an early concussion in Origin 3 – was left spasming on the ground and played no further part in the Roosters’ victory. Collins is the defender so there was no suggestion of illegal play.
Again, Turpin raced out of the line to “put a hit” on Radley. Again, there was no lowering of body height so Turpin’s head was at Radley’s head height. To make matters worse, Turpin’s tackle technique was awful.
Radley was running to Turpin’s left. Turpin, however, led with his right shoulder instead of his left, putting his head directly in front of Radley’s. The Roosters lock was left with blood pouring out of his head.
This is the 101 of defending… don’t get your head in the way. It was a head clash so there was no suggestion of illegal play – although it was this exact technique flaw that saw Dylan Napa suspended.
Lightweight utility back Tracey took the ball to the line. Sims tried to “put a hit” on Tracey. Tracey was simultaneously hit low by another Dragons defender and “fell into” Sims’ tackle. Sims’ shoulder hit Tracey in the head.
Tracey’s neck was immediately immobilised by the Sharks’ trainer and after a lengthy delay, was stretchered from the field and played no further part in the game. Sims was sin-binned for 10 minutes.
Relative cleanskin Finucane tried to fire the Sharks up by rushing out of the line to “put a hit” on Panthers centre Crichton. Heads collided and Crichton was left with his ear split in half, requiring plastic surgery.
Accidents happen, right? What were they supposed to do? They can’t disappear.
Except with what we know about head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), these are exactly the incidents we’re supposed to be trying to get out of the game.
Clearly, we’re not.
In all of these tackles, the defender rushed up quickly and with a target zone above the ball. The idea in all of them was “put a hit” on their opponent. There was no effort in any of them to lower body height or lower the target zone.
Can players really claim, “It was an accident, sir” when their opponent falls suddenly in a tackle? I mean, players fall in every tackle. It’s kinda the point of the game.
Can a player plea, “Where was I supposed to go?” or, “I can’t disappear” when they aim their skull at their opponent’s cranium? Is I want to “put a hit” on my opponent a good enough excuse to fly in recklessly upright?
Players have to lower their tackle target zones.
Aiming above the ball and inches below an opponent’s chin is a recipe for disaster. For attacker and defender.
Jake Trbojevic has the best tackle technique in the modern game. When an opponent runs at him, he moves forward. Sets his feet. Lowers his body height. Pushes off from his thighs. Hits under the ball and drives up. Clinical.
When he gets one wrong (anyone remember a time he has?) he can genuinely claim an accident, not bone idle, lazy technique.
How often did Players like Trevor Gillmeister, David Gillespie and Dean Lance hit opponents high?
Rugby league is a brutal collision-based sport. It’s not made better by smashing opponents in the head and it wouldn’t be made worse from stopping it.
It will be made worse by players having their career ended prematurely.