Greg Bird claims players are confused about where they stand on lifting tackles after he successfully challenged his grade three charge at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday.
The Gold Coast and NSW back-rower saw his challenge on South Sydney winger Bryson Goodwin last Saturday reduced to a grade two offence after his case was put forward by former judiciary chairman Jim Hall.
Bird’s two-week ban means he will sit out the Titans’ clashes with Brisbane and the Warriors and the State of Origin opener on May 28 because it falls during his suspension period.
But he admitted he was hugely relieved to not be slugged with a six-week ban which he would have received had his case not been successful, ruling him out of the entire Origin series.
“Players are confused, when you have a big man coming at you, you can’t shoulder charge, you can’t dive in below the knees, now you can’t bend your back and drive,” Bird said.
“It is getting complicated and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.”
Bird admitted he feared becoming a scapegoat after becoming the first high-profile case to appear before the judiciary since the career-ending injury to Newcastle back-rower Alex McKinnon that led to the NRL issuing a crackdown on lifting tackles.
He also said he’d no choice but to look closely his tackling technique to ensure he doesn’t end up in hot water again.
“I was concerned, but consistency had to prevail,” he said.
“This is going to keep being a contentious issue for the rest of the year, what is a dangerous tackle and what is lifting?
“It’s definitely going to make you rethink your tackling technique and I think everybody is in the same boat.”
In a hearing that lasted just over 40 minutes at Rugby League Central, the three-man panel of Royce Ayliffe, Chris McKenna and Don McKinnon took less than 10 minutes to downgrade the charge.
Hall used comparable clips of tackles made by former Manly prop Richie Fa’aoso, and grade two incidents involving Wests Tigers centre Tim Simona and Bird’s Titans teammate Matt White.
Fa’aoso was hit with a grade three charge for a spear tackle on Souths star Greg Inglis last season and Bird argued his tackle was nowhere near as dangerous.
“I bent my back and to make a regulation tackle to try and put him on his back,” Bird told the hearing.
“I hit him around the waist and pushed him back. The momentum of the collision was upwards and wasn’t focused on one leg. I was trying to get him on the ground.”
NRL counsel Peter Kite argued that Goodwin’s head struck the ground first but Bird challenged the claim saying he landed forcefully on his back and shoulders first.
“The lift is high, the elbow is raised and you put the player in a dangerous position … Goodwin’s head hits the ground … it’s moderate to high force,” Kite said.
However, Hall said because his client didn’t have his hands between Goodwin’s legs, the head and neck weren’t pointing downwards and no injury was sustained, the incident didn’t warrant a grade three charge.
Meanwhile, South Sydney hooker Apisai Koroisau also had a victory at the judiciary and is free to face Melbourne at ANZ Stadium on Friday night after his grade two dangerous throw charge was downgraded.