The Roar
The Roar


Death, taxes and hypocrisy in rugby league: Suaalii send-off reignites inconsistent debate

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8th June, 2024

People are allowed to change their minds. We are only human, we have our opinions and we all make mistakes. From 20 year old professional rugby league players to 48-year veterans of sports journalism. Nobody is perfect.

But a send-off from a high tackle in State of Origin has confirmed that hypocrisy is the only consistency in rugby league.

On NRL 360 last year Phil Rothfield thought that tackles with direct forceful contact to the head were worth a penalty and 10 minutes in the sin bin. However this year, it’s a clear send-off without debate. Fair enough Buzz, you’re entitled to change your mind. Perhaps you even made a mistake last year.

But out of the four head-high tackles shown on NRL 360 last season in the clip above I think three of them were worse than the Joseph Suaalii tackle in State of Origin.

In my opinion three were definite send-offs even though Thomas Burgess wasn’t marched for the rest of the game and given what we saw on Wednesday night, the Jarome Luai tackle on Nelson Asofa-Solomona meets the criteria for a send-off too. At minimum it’s 10 in the bin. However in his case it was penalty sufficient.

In three out of these four tackles, the defending player doesn’t even bend their back and the attacking player isn’t falling in the tackle. But at the time Rothfield thought they were all 10 in the bin sufficient.

However Buzz must of felt that the Suaalii hit was much worse than the two send-offs shown on NRL 360 with direct forceful contact to the head.


But everyone needs to get clear that the whole purpose of trying to eradicate head high tackles is preventing CTE and injury. After all players safety is the purpose of what they want to accomplish by sending a player off isn’t it?

All too often it seems that when a player gets it wrong it’s all about punishing a team, club and the fans, like we were all in on the conspiracy to target a player or knock a player out.

If it truly is about players safety then how come not all brains are equally important in rugby league? Because from what I hear from officials and commentators is that the brain of an attacking player has a higher value than the brain of a defending player. Some might say that is brain discrimination?

When Moses Suli got knocked out in the first minute on Anzac Day as a defender there was no punishment to anyone, except to Suli, his own teammates and fans, because he was a defender and well, it was an accident. Is Suli, the Dragons players, club and fans less important because he was defending and not attacking?

Why isn’t the 18th man activated in those circumstances? Why don’t we have five players sitting on the interchange bench all available to play – there are five now so just make the 18th player an active interchange from the start of the game, but still only allowing four of them to to be used unless the fifth player is activated for various reasons, like what happened to Queensland on Wednesday night.

I thought the argument from everyone is primarily focused on player safety? So making a team play with one less player than the opposition is safe? I thought fatigue increased the risk of injury?


Where do people draw that line between what’s acceptable brain trauma and what’s not? What’s accidental and what’s not? What’s a send off and what’s not? What is a fair punishment and what’s not?

All I see right now are inconsistent opinions and none of it is making the sport safer for players. It’s only making the game less enjoyable to watch. More players injured sitting on the sidelines and more watching games where you know that one team have limited chance of winning or even being competitive after they lose a player early in the first half.
And more hypocritical opinions.

I wish rugby league had more common sense and less high horse hypocrisy. But that’s just me.