With the devastation of Alex McKinnon's injury from a spear tackle still very raw in the minds of every Rugby League fan, official, player, administrator and family members, one could understand that a crack-down on spear tackles and an influx of lengthy suspensions would follow to try and wipe the tackle out of the game for good.
And not one person would be angered or upset by that. In fact, it would have been met largely with open arms and support.
This past week we saw a number of dangerous tackles, most notably one by Dragons talented forward Jack de Belin against South Sydney's Sam Burgess, which saw Burgess fall head first into the ground with his feet pointing straight up. Burgess was able to roll himself so as to avoid a serious injury. Jack de Belin was put on report.
He wasn't sent off. Not even sin binned.
But the travesty doesn't end there. He was eventually given a Grade 1 Dangerous Throw charge, the lightest possible charge you could receive. This resulted in him copping a suspension for one week.
Wests Tiger's five-eighth Braith Anasta was suspended for the same amount of time for a lazy and careless shoulder charge.
But in no way was Anasta's illegal tackle as dangerous as de Belin's was, yet according to the NRL's Match Review Committee, they were about the same.
Is it only possible that justifiably long suspensions for illegal tackles can be handed down only when the tackled player is seriously injured? What sort of a backward Mickey Mouse operation is this?
It's high time that lifting in tackles started getting very hefty penalties. So here's my idea. Scrap these 5 separate gradings, it allows for too much leniency. Three should be ample.
- Grade 1: If a player puts his hand between a players legs and lifts - 1 to 2 weeks suspension.
- Grade 2: If a player is lifted to the horizontal, not beyond it -3 to 6 week's suspension.
- Grade 3: If a player is lifted and tipped beyond the horizontal - at least 7 weeks suspension.
It may seem excessive, but really, what would we rather see, spear tackles eradicated from the game, or more players who have to go through the ordeal that has tragically befallen poor Alex McKinnon.
The NRL is seriously lacking in consistency. On Tuesday the Bulldogs were handed an infraction for not following their new concussion guidelines, when they allowed Josh Jackson to play in Round 2.
While the decision against the Bulldogs and Anasta show that they can get these decisions right, the decisions against de Belin and other players who committed illegal tackles, especially over the last weekend (spear tackles, crusher tackles), which can cause very severe injuries have been given excessively soft penalties.
If the NRL continues with this stance, they are simply telling clubs that these illegal plays are tolerated. Is that what they want?