Let me start by explaining that I’m completely with the NRL in banning shoulder charges.
Too many go wrong and the consequences, as we have sadly seen too closely this year, are not worth debating the issue. Safety of players must be paramount and I applaud the NRL for making the necessary changes to the rules.
However, this week we have seen NRL boss Dave Smith promise a crack down on all shoulder charges with any tackle of that nature now earning an automatic match review charge and a minimum one game ban. That is over the top. Head high tackles are banned and rightly so but there are many high tackles that are not particularly dangerous and are worthy of a penalty at most. The same should apply to shoulder charges.
The potential shoulder charge that Ben Matulino demonstrated in the Warriors loss to the Dragons in Wellington yesterday was not bad enough to warrant a match review charge. Simon Mannering was penalised in the same game for a high tackle. It wasn’t particularly dangerous but it was illegal and he was penalised accordingly. I bet his name won’t appear on the judiciary charge sheet tomorrow but I suspect Matulino’s will. If nothing else, the NRL will want to send a message about it’s tough stance around shoulder charges – and that to me is where they will lose credibility. Matulino’s tackle was borderline illegal and I wouldn’t have a problem with the referees blowing a penalty against him on the field but there is absolutely no need to add a judiciary charge to that as well.
Common sense cannot be forgotten in this game and I fear that will disappear as the NRL looks to win a PR battle. The Monday afternoon charge sheet will provide an interesting read this week.