NRL Head of football Todd Greenberg has issued a crackdown on players who put opponents into dangerous positions – but says lifting tackles are here to stay.
The NRL called a snap media conference on Wednesday sparked speculation lifting tackles would be rubbed out of the game following the serious spinal injury to Newcastle back-rower Alex McKinnon.
Instead, Greenberg announced the match review committee had been ordered to sanction players who lift players above the horizontal where there is threat of injury to the head and neck.
The move follows the decision not to charge Gold Coast hooker Beau Falloon and St George Illawarra back-rower Joel Thompson earlier this month.
Falloon lifted Melbourne’s Will Chambers above the horizontal and Thompson did likewise to South Sydney’s Greg Inglis.
However, because the pair were able to use their arms to break their fall, no charges were laid – something that will change under the new guidelines.
“We’ve spent the last two weeks assessing the analytics of tackling across the game,” Greenberg said.
“We’ve recalibrated with our match review committee and what you will see from this week is if a player is put in a dangerous position, irrelevant of the outcome, they can accept a charge.
“Over the first six weeks, it was fair to say there were a number of tackles that weren’t charged that we weren’t happy about.
“If a player is put in a dangerous position and, if by luck, he rolls out of that … it’s not an excuse to escape a charge.
The issue of lifting tackles has dominated the game since McKinnon’s sickening injury following a three-man lifting tackle involving Melbourne trio Jordan McLean and Kenny and Jesse Bromwich.
McLean picked up a seven-match ban for the incident but his teammates were not charged.
Greenberg said under the new guidelines, that could change but it would be too difficult to take lifting tackles out of the game altogether.
“Lifting tackles are here to stay,” he said.
“There are lots of lifting tackles in a game that are clearly safe.
“A lot of people have called for banning of three-man tackles. That is not the answer.
“The answer is to not put players in a dangerous position in a lift.”
Club coaches have bemoaned a lack of consistency from the NRL when it comes to rulings.
Melbourne even took the step of publicly questioning the decision not to charge Falloon a week after McLean was banned.
But Greenberg said the new edict sent out to clubs would clarify the situation in full.
“That’s the message today, that there now is clarity and consistency,” he said.
“If players put players in a dangerous position, then they will be charged. I cannot make myself any clearer.”