Don't play with my head, that's
my special area!

The Jarrod McCracken case has set a dangerous precedent for spear tackles in Rugby League now, with the possibility of any illegitimate tackle being brought to court if a serious injury evolves from it. There?s no question that spear tackles have always been grimaced and frowned upon by the NRL, and hefty suspensions will occur for those who think it is a nice idea to give a friend a spinal operation for Christmas, but is it time that ?the grapple? be considered just as bad as the spear tackle? It has been an overwhelming inclination this season for defending players to ?grapple? the head of the attacking player, gaining control and slowing the play of the ball. The weight and force of a player can be controlled by ?grappling? the head or neck. The problem here is while one player holds another players head to control him and slow the play down, he is vulnerable to be hit by a Sonny Bill express train at one-hundred kilometres per hour and have serious damage done to him. Why is he vulnerable? Because the player being ?grappled? cannot escape and defend himself, and is open to being hit very hard by the opposing players or even have his wallet stolen.

The grapple tackle causes more than just immobility problems, it doesn?t take a rocket scientist to realise that grabbing someone by their head or throat leads to a good chance of causing a serious neck or spinal injury. Watching Bulldogs premier league on the weekend, a player grappled Nathan Armit for a period of almost five seconds, the referee standing there thinking about the beach-whale he refers to as ?Darling? sitting at home waiting for him. After the supposed tackle was completed, Armit lay on the ground in an enormous amount of pain, clutching at his neck. When Armit was asked by a trainer what was wrong, he replied: ?I cannot feel my back!?

He was taken off the field and rushed straight to hospital, where scans revealed no serious damage but things could have been much worse. The tackle was looked at again, and the official ruling was ?We?ve looked at it, and we do not see a problem, it was just bad luck for Nathan?. However, this was not an isolated incident on the weekend.

Nearing the end of the Storm V Panthers match, David Kidwell ?grappled? Joel Clinton, fans booing and shouting at the referee to call a penalty. Once Kidwell let go, Clinton had a case of Danny Williams Amnesia and started throwing punches. Shayne ?My mummy chooses my clothes for me in the morning? Hayne calmed the fight, only to be approached by Clinton afterwards: ?He had me around my neck ref! He had me the whole time! It was a grapple?

Hayne stood confused, wondering when he was going to drink his juice box and eat his apple, and asked the video referee. Again the final calling was: ?We?re happy with it?? A conclusion that has set a dangerous standard in the game?

Players come onto the field to play Rugby League, the game they grew up with, the game that they love. If they wanted to wrestle, they would have gone to wrestling class during school with Melbourne? but they didn?t.

The NRL have tried to eliminate ?the grapple?, but clearly more needs to be done if they are still occurring every game of the week without any penalty. Dangerous players are being targeted and grappled, and it is only a matter of time before the NRL and offending players are sued yet again for ending the career of a fresh, young prospect. Are we going to wait for a player?s neck to be broken? Or even then, am I going to see Shayne Hayne call a penalty for not playing the ball as the ball carrier lies on the ground with a broken neck

?It was a fair tackle? play the ball?

Players should not be trying to touch the heads of their opponents at all. Every time I see a tackle with facial massages or holding the head, I sit there wondering how much longer it is going to be before someone gets seriously hurt. I don?t just wonder how the player is going to be hurt, I wonder how the game will be hurt financially, and in terms of its image. ?If you like to hurt people?s heads, come to Rugby League??

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