The Dr is getting a little tired of watching NRL officialdom bring the game into disrepute.
It has taken a Senate Committee and public complaints to water down the Waterhouse. He wasn’t born to put on the baggy green, or be a rugby league commentator, it seems. And it seems NRL management aren’t up to the task of making the types of decisions expected of grown-ups, either. I guess that’s what $50 mill gets you – advertising when you’re not supposed to be advertising.
Moving on …
Why do the NRL and commentators pussyfoot around the real issue – head contact – by obliviously discussing whether or not the shoulder charge should be banned, as it was again on NRL 360 last night. If the NRL had been tough on head contact in the first instance, the shoulder charge need not have been banned at all. Symptoms and causes appear to be synonyms at the NRL. The ineptitude is terrifying, and reframing the debate that skirts the real issue is appalling.
As an aside, there’s a reason head contact with these tackles has increased in my mind – players are so much bulkier and muscular, while head sizes, unless I’m seriously mistaken, and Bruce Willis’ Son’s melon in Die Hard 5 notwithstanding, have remained the same. The path of least resistance (read: injury) to the defender gravitates towards the head. It’s all part of the relatively predictable chain of events stemming from the amounts of interchanges allowed, which mean players are used in shorter, sharper bursts.
Consequently, they can afford to carry more weight, and the collisions do not diminish as the game unfolds. Endurance is no longer one of the attributes that rank highly. Americanising the game the game is not the answer, though the use of words like ‘offence’ and ‘D’ may mean that players and coaches would like it to. Rugby League is a game of constant movement with bodies in motion, not a set-piece-fest like NFL.
The weekend drama involving Richie Fa’aoso and Ashley Harrison resulted in a downgraded charge (as expected), and a mere 1wk suspension. Ashley Harrison was not only pole-axed by a late, illegal tackle resulting in concussion and brain trauma, but now will miss next week’s game because of it.
In short, ole Ash got 2 games, his attacker 1. As Peter Fitzsimons writes today in the SMH, it should probably take him longer to get back on the field.
Yes, the head clash was accidental. The point is that it was the result of a hit that was late (intentional), illegal (reckless), and careless. I had hoped the NRL would make a stand on illegality causing serious bodily harm. Alas …. Clearly the judiciary is weak-minded enough to fall for Jedi mind tricks by the legal defence, or even just shiny things in the distance.
The NRL has shown its spots on the shoulder charge absolutely and irrefutably. By refusing to suspend Billy Slater for an illegal shoulder charge resulting in concussion against the Cowboys, it is a manifestly saying ‘talk to the hand’, and ‘not our problem’. They are saying it is quite alright to engage in illegal play and cause serious injury, rules be damned. As mentioned in a previous blog, they are going to need a lot of cash in the kitty come class-action time. And if the NFL is any guide, it is not a low percentage event. They don’t betray any grasp of how serious this is.
The NRL is schizophrenic and inconsistent – and wrong, as usual. Having misdiagnosed the real problem – head contact – and banning the shoulder charge, they then ignore it when it actually causes serious harm. And then we have to endure a 20-minute discussion on NRL 360 about ‘duty of care’ when referencing the Slater/Klemmer bomb/kick. Didn’t seem to matter last night. Paul Kent mentioned there was no precedent to grade this tackle. It seems pretty opbvious this was the opportunity. Then, they droped the ball materially – again – with the Slater/Winterstein incident, so what can you really expect? They haven’t learned from this, the NFL lawsuits, anything.
Where the real duty of care resides is with the League, and that duty is to do everything possible within its means to protect its players from serious harm, especially the type of harm that has been proven to occur in later years. Everyone accepts the game is a tough contact sport. Head contact is not part of the modern game.
If the NRL Board, management and judiciary were in a publicly listed company … hang on a sec until I stop laughing at the thought this would ‘ever’ be a possibility … a good laugh is worth 10 minutes on the rowing machine the poster says … anyway, where was I? Oh, right, if they worked for a publicly listed company they would have been unceremoniously dumped at an extraordinary general meeting at the first opportunity. These clowns should be running US and European banks … oh, wait …