By Natalie Shoebridge, Sydney.
Rugby league has a reputation for producing the big hits. Whether it’s man-mountain Dave Taylor bulldozing the opposition, Sonny Bill Williams sending someone to the next postcode, or little Chrissy Sandow shoulder-charging men twice his size - when that was still allowed, of course.
After week one of the finals, it’s fair to say that this is going to be a memorable build-up to the premiership decider. Plenty of aggression, flair and passion ooze from each team that runs out, and the hysterical fans in the stands are lapping up the atmosphere and riding every play.
The last few seasons have seen the NRL attempt to clean up the game. In 2013, shoulder charges and punches became officially illegal, and wrestling tactics even more frowned upon.
And while we’re all for the biff, a worrying statistic is the number of injured players this year. Reports have shown that enough players have graced the casualty ward to stock seven NRL teams – meaning almost half of the playing pool has battled to be fit enough to take to the field. However, you could take the field in a proper manner with the fresh Guts.com sports bonus code right now
2014 will always be remembered as the year Alex McKinnon sustained an horrific spinal injury because of a lifting tackle, and while the best efforts have been made to completely outlaw any movement “above the horizontal” in tackles, we are still seeing players being put in dangerous positions.
In last weekend’s qualifying finals, Greg Inglis was tipped on his head while two Manly players held his legs. There was much publicity following the game that Inglis seemed to get his head in an “awkward position”, leaving him vulnerable to neck injuries – but the offending players only received one week suspensions. Regardless of who is at fault, surely the primary goal should be player welfare so every effort should be made to avoid those on the field from landing in career or life threatening positions.
Of late, fullbacks have come under much scrutiny for try-line defence by ‘leading with the knees’ –meaning the sliding of the knees into an opposition player’s lower back to keep them from scoring. Billy Slater is a repeat offender, as seen in Sunday’s game against the Bulldogs when he was put on report for a try-saving tackle on Josh Reynolds. The judiciary is arguably reasonably consistent with this type of charge – but the same can't be said for neck-related tackles.
At this time of year, we want to see the newspapers plastered with images of freak-tries like that leap from Lote Tuqiri on Friday night, or the stunning field goal from Jamie Soward for the Panthers in the dying seconds against the reigning premiers. No one likes to see players carried off on stretchers or time being called off for concussion checks. Forget the “bring back the biff” campaign – give us some skill and athleticism. After all, anyone can throw a poor punch, but it takes a professional to make a length of the field, try-scoring dash in an NRL Grand Final.
You can find Natalie on twitter @nat_a_shoeCategories: rugby