OPINION

NRL focus on high hits is a plus for the game

Raider Josh Papalii walks off the field after being sent off at Suncorp in Round 10. Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images
Raider Josh Papalii walks off the field after being sent off at Suncorp in Round 10. Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images

It caused an almighty stir last weekend, but I have to say that, by and large, I'm a supporter of the game getting much tougher on foul play and players attacking the heads of rivals.

The sentiment is a positive one and will be to the benefit of the players. It will also protect our game as well into the future.

And for mums and dads out there contemplating whether to let their young sons and daughters play rugby league, it's an important step forward.

But - and yes, there is a but - we also need to be mindful of the fact that we are involved in a big contact sport where at times, accidents are unavoidable.

I'm all for the NRL stamping out the bad ones.

The send-offs last weekend of Josh Papalii, Herman Ese'ese and Tyrell Fuimaono were all fair dinkum in my opinion, and I didn't have a problem with them.

In fact, I reckon the referees have been far too lenient for far too long with those types of incidents.

They've been guilty of taking the easy option by putting similar incidents on report, rather than being brave enough to give them their matching orders on the spot.

That's allowed players and coaches to get away with plenty.

In some respects, that inaction is what led to the need for last weekend's crackdown during Magic Round.

Was it an over-reaction? In some cases it was because there was some stuff pulled up by the refs and video refs that wasn't even borderline worthy of a penalty or a player being put on report.

And I've got to say I'm with Wayne Bennett when it comes to stopping play and going back three or four tackles to penalise something initially missed by the match officials. That's a disruption to our game we definitely don't need.

I'm hoping that this weekend, across all the games, we see a correction when it comes to accidental contact that is deemed unavoidable and how those incidents are policed.

We may also need to think about whether we need to tinker with the tackling rules to reward players for tackling lower.

Right now, the reason we see more high contact is because tackling on or above the ball has been coached into the players to stop the off-loads and slow down the play of the ball.

Defenders are coached not to tackle low, because as soon as you hit the ground you have to release the tackled player and roll away, which is a huge disadvantage to the defending team.

Against tackling low are the incidents where defenders get their heads in the wrong spot and end up with concussion after collecting an accidental hip or knee to the head.

Like I said, it's a contact sport and with fatigue it's a bigger factor. Because of the speed of the game and less stoppages, there are going to be accidents out there.

I'm intrigued to see what this weekend brings. I'll be happy as long as we get the bad ones right. But at the same time, recognise there are going to be accidents as well.

THE GAMES 

WARRIORS v TIGERS

Which team can you trust? The Warriors have been good in patches and have certainly tried hard, despite being down on troops. But I think the Tigers might just have enough class in their side to get away with this one. The question mark around Michael Maguire's side is their lack of consistency and whether they can repeat what they produced against Newcastle in Magic Round a week later. My tip: Tigers

SHARKS v DRAGONS

All things being equal, I would've tipped the Dragons. But after the carnage last week, they just have too many players out. The Sharks played well enough in their loss to the Rabbitohs to suggest they can win here, with Matt Moylan to play a big role. My tip: Sharks

TITANS v BULLDOGS

At home against the Dogs, I think the Titans are specials. There is not a lot to like about the way they defend. But they can attack from anywhere on the field and are a far different proposition for any team when they play on the Gold Coast. The Dogs are struggling to understand how to win and if their defence is a little off in this one, it could be a long afternoon for them. My tip: Titans

ROOSTERS v BRONCOS

The Broncos are unreliable, inconsistent with a flaky defence - everything the Roosters are not. The thing I love about watching the Roosters is that they challenge you every play. They have a workman-like forward pack and some brilliant individuals headed by James Tedesco and impressive youngster Sam Walker. My tip: Roosters

RAIDERS v STORM

As much as I want to see them win, it's difficult to see the Raiders overcoming the loss of Josh Hodgson, Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton and knocking off the Melbourne Storm. If the Roosters have this "next man up" mentality down pat, so too do the Storm, who have key players missing as well. What I will say is the home side will show plenty of fight and this will be closer than a lot of people expect. My tip: Storm

RABBITOHS v PANTHERS

What a blockbuster for the people of Dubbo. Latrell Mitchell is back for the Rabbitohs and if their attack clicks into gear, they will be a chance. But the Panthers give you nothing and are relentless when they have the footy, led by the game's best player at the moment in Nathan Cleary. Souths' defence is their worry. My tip: Panthers

EELS v EAGLES

It won't surprise me if this is close and goes to golden point. Manly has been super impressive ever since Tommy Turbo returned, but the Eels keep getting the job done with Mitch Moses the architect behind a great pack of forwards. At home, they might prevail in a thriller. My tip: Eels

This story Laurie Daley | NRL focus on high hits is a plus for the game first appeared on The Canberra Times.