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Dangerous tackles spark calls for referees to send more players off

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Referees have been encouraged to send players off for any incident which jeopardises the safety of an opponent after NRL officials expressed concern over a number of dangerous tackles in last weekend's round of matches.

Cronulla forward Sam Tagataese was suspended for four matches after pleading guilty to a grade three dangerous throw on Warriors centre Dane Nielsen, while Parramatta's Junior Paulo was charged with a grade two dangerous throw – the same grading the tackle by Melbourne prop Jordan McLean that left Newcastle back-rower Alex McKinnon with a spinal injury was adjudged to have been.

South Sydney prop George Burgess also pleaded guilty to a grade two dangerous contact charge for a chicken wing tackle on Manly's Steve Matai, while three other players received dangerous contact charges – including Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds, who was also charged for tripping his Brisbane opposite Ben Barba.

Send off offence? Josh Reynolds was charged for tripping Ben Barba.

Send off offence? Josh Reynolds was charged for tripping Ben Barba. Photo: Getty Images

Fairfax Media was told on Sunday that some senior NRL officials believed Reynolds should have been sent off. Referees have now been advised that they will be supported by the game's hierarchy for taking such action over clear-cut and easily identifiable incidents of foul play.

''It has always been left to the referees' discretion to determine if a player should be put on report or sent off for a serious breach,'' an NRL spokesman said. ''However, the NRL is particularly concerned about dangerous incidents where player safety is put at risk, and would support any referee sending off a player in these circumstances.

''Referees can send off a player where there is a clear case of foul or violent play – and they will be supported by the NRL if they do so. Steps have been taken to improve player safety, which is our priority area. That includes the action taken to stop punching, dangerous tackles and shoulder charges.''

Dane Nielsen of the Warriors leaves the field with a head injury following a dangerous throw from Sharks forward Sam Tagataese.

Dane Nielsen of the Warriors leaves the field with a head injury following a dangerous throw from Sharks forward Sam Tagataese. Photo: Getty Images

Nielsen was forced from the field with concussion and is in doubt for this weekend's match against Newcastle, prompting Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah to question whether more should be done to ensure teams who lost a player due to foul play weren't disadvantaged.

Scurrah called for more frequent use of the sin bin and said a proposal for the introduction of a yellow and red card system, as used in football, had merit.

''There aren't a lot of sending-offs but I think there is certainly potential for that [the issuing of red cards] and more in the way of sin-binnings as well,'' Scurrah said.

Manly's Steve Matai suffers the after-effects of George Burgess' chicken wing tackle.

Manly's Steve Matai suffers the after-effects of George Burgess' chicken wing tackle. Photo: Getty Images

''There seems to be a growing incidence of people being placed on report and nothing happening. And that is fine, but I think it is worth looking at the impact on the team that suffers an injury and how that team is disadvantaged there and then versus a charge that may come later.

''I am not sure of the best way to equalise the impact during the actual game but perhaps more sin-binnings is the answer.''

However, the NRL insists the sin bin should be used only for professional fouls or any other breaches of the rules.

''Any violent or foul play is best dealt with by putting the players on report or sending them off for the most serious breaches,'' the spokesman said. ''The match review committee and judiciary can then determine the most suitable penalty.

''There is already a rule in place to compensate a team where one of its players is forced to leave the field after an incident which results in a player from the opposing team being put on report. 

''That player’s team receives two free interchanges [one when the player goes off and one when the player or a substitute comes back on]. Referees have the option of sending a player off or putting them on report, and we believe the system has worked well this year.''

However, Manly officials pointed out that they did not gain any benefit after losing Matai in the early stages of last Friday night's loss to South Sydney as match officials missed the tackle by Burgess that left the Kiwi centre with a shoulder injury.

18 comments so far

  • You mention the Burgess tackle for example ......if you look at the replay there was a referee right over the tackle , was not even penalised !
    If that ref saw nothing to warrant a penalty at the time nor the other referee how do you expect them to send a player off?
    For these paid officials it was not so "clear cut and easily identifiable"
    I would prefer less statements like this from the NRL and more acknowledgement that the referees standards are not acceptable
    I thought Burgess was guilty by the way ,and at the time but Issac Luke did nothing in that tackle and was given a suspension but can play next week with a guilty plea . So a lazy arm or a minor indiscretion will result in a game missed , possibly a grand final
    Players are taking early pleas to avoid missing matches , but in Issacs Luke's case I hardly think it is an admission of guilt

    Date and time
    August 13, 2014, 3:28AM
    • The lack of action by the officials, both on field and the video ref, to the tackle on Mattai was disgraceful. In short, they should be sacked. The tackle was prolonged, with obvious deliberate intent to cause injurie to an area of the body which the player in question has had a series of injuries, and it was ugly. I was aghast the commentary team didn't pick it up either.

      I believe proof positive that Souths are the anointed premiers for 2014.

      It'll just make it so much the sweeter when manly walk away with the prize.

      Canberra Sea Eagle
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 7:45AM
    • If you watch the replay it's evident that the action of George Burgess was exacerbated by Isaac Luke being on top and visibly pushing Matai anti-clockwise in an effort to get him on his back. Had he not done that I think the injury would not have happened.

      There's no doubt George Burgess had a chicken wing hold on Matai, but it was the contribution of the movement contributed by Isaac Luke that injured Matai. At the end of the incident you can see a concerned look on Isaac's face and he raises his arm to signal that Matai has been hurt.

      I don't think George Burgess should be hung out to dry for this, and I think the suspension is adequate considering the probable lack of intent and the contribution Isaac Luke made to the resultant injury.

      This incident only underscores how easily these wrestling techniques can go awry. I hope the injury isn't too severe.

      Surry Hills
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 8:31AM
    • Cop it sweet Manly supporters. Matai has given out plenty in his time.
      The bleating started soon after the game, as expected.
      Another investigation is needed no doubt!
      You were over powered and out played.
      Some pay back by the bunnies who choked in the final last year.
      I enjoyed every minute of Friday night. I was there in 1970.
      Looking forward to their next match.

      Central Coast
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 12:59PM
  • Referees and touch judges. Strange alien creatures with painted-on eyes. Their language is strange also. Their communication is limited to "use your foot", it's out", "time your run", "go back and play it" and similar things. Cannot carry on a conversation if approached by a captain.

    The Dog
    Date and time
    August 13, 2014, 7:22AM
    • What needs to change is the whole question of "send-offs" and "sin-bins". I suggest the following changes: reckless foul play that results in player of opposing team leaving the field (unable to see out the game) - send-off that offender. His team plays 1 short for 10 mins and he is then replaced from reserves. We still have 13 on 13 - but each team has 16 players;
      Sin-bin - bring back the 5 min sin-bin. We see stupid "professional fouls" that warrant a stronger penalty - but refs consider 10 mins to severe so only penalise. If there was a 5 min sin-bin then the refs would (IMHO) use it. Players would soon learn - leaving their team one short for 5 mins would attract the coaches wrath. ALL "professional fouls" inside attacking 10 meters to be automatic 10 min sin-bins (Refs to have no option).

      saint mike II
      Kiama Downs
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 8:00AM
      • You've saved me from writing the same thing - great ideas, and common sense. I can't believe these haven't been implemented already.

        Surry Hills
        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 8:22AM
      • I don't agree with replacing players who have been sent off, even after 10 minutes.

        It rewards a team who sends a mug player out to take out the lynch pin of the opposition team. Mug player from Team A and star player from Team B sit out the rest of the match, but Team B is at a disadvantage.

        Send offs are fine as is.

        What league needs to do, though, is to look at union, and expand what can result in a sin bin. In union, any foul or dangerous play could result in a sin bin or a send off. In league, a referee cannot sin bin a player for a dangerous tackle, but can only sin bin players for professional fouls, dissent and fighting.

        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 11:08AM
    • Great, now we'll see players sent off with four games left in the season proper. Pity about the other 22 rounds. The only thing consistent about the NRL's 'crackdowns' is the inconsistency.

      In the locker room
      Date and time
      August 13, 2014, 8:04AM
      • Well what do they do then? The NRL has identified a problem with foul play putting player safety at risk...are they then supposed to say "Hey we know we have an issue but we're not going to do anything about it until next season! Just so we can be consistent".

        Actually I would have thought there was a duty of care issue anyway, having identified a serious risk/issue and not acting on it immediately would open up the league to a number of ethical and legal questions.

        Date and time
        August 13, 2014, 10:31AM

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