The NRL is set to launch another early-season crackdown on dangerous tackles in 2014, in an attempt to eliminate the `’crusher” and ”cannonball” tackles in the same way it outlawed the shoulder charge in 2013.
The cannonball and crusher tackles are increasingly earning the ire of NRL officials in a similar manner to the shoulder charge, which was banned at the start of the 2013 NRL season.
Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has called for the cannonball tackle, where a third defender attacks the legs of a stationary ball carrier held up by two defenders in order to slow the play-the-ball, to be banned.
While Sydney Roosters back-rower Sonny Bill Williams was the latest player on the wrong end of a crusher tackle, where a player’s head is “crushed” towards his torso by a tackler, in New Zealand’s quarter-final World Cup win over Scotland.
Williams’s neck was hurt in the incident he described as one of the scariest of his career.
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said on Monday that both tackles were in the crosshairs of the game’s officialdom.
“Player welfare is our number one priority and that is what we are talking about here,” Greenberg told AAP.
“It is something we are looking very closely at, and those tackles definitely come into that.
“I have been doing the rounds of the clubs. I have been to about 10 of the 16 clubs seeking feedback and this has been a topic of discussion.
“Any final decision on the tackles would be made by the competition committee and the (ARL) Commission but it is something we are strongly considering.”
The NRL’s enforcement of the shoulder charge ban was haphazard at best, with a number of likely charges avoiding scrutiny, especially a Williams hit on Knights prop Willie Mason in July.
Newcastle’s Kade Snowden received the biggest penalty of a seven-match ban for a shoulder charge after he was sent off for breaking North Queensland utility Ray Thompson’s jaw in August.
Greenberg said the NRL would look at similar hefty penalties of about four to eight weeks if the crusher and cannonball tackles were outlawed in order to send a message to players.
“There is an onus of responsibility with the tackler not to put an opposition player in a dangerous position,” Greenberg said.
“Players need to understand that there has to be some level of care there.”