It’s a bit of a worry when the headline to emerge
from an important meeting of National Rugby League coaches relates to the fact
that Broncos coach, Wayne Bennett, attended.

Under the headline “Look Who’s Here,” The Daily Telegraph devoted three quarters of its back page lead story on the
coaches meeting to the fact that Bennett was in attendance – for the first time
since 1999.

This is clearly not going to be an easy year for
Bennett in his relations with the media, especially the Sydney press. And it will get even harder if the Broncos
underperform.

And other coaches – especially those under pressure
– must already be greatly relieved that the stoush between the Broncos mentor and
the media is going to be more robust than ever in 2006. It will be a welcome
distraction from any troubles they might have in the season ahead.

But the coaches meeting addressed one of the game’s
real problems – the “grapple tackle” that has been perfected by one or two
clubs, notably the Melbourne Storm. Players who wrap their arms around the neck or head
of an opponent in a tackle will be penalised.

The NRL has made an even more welcome change to the
edicts it will issue clubs and referees before the 2006 season starts. There is to be a tougher stance on the most
insidious of all tackles – the “dangerous
throw” or spear tackle.

In recent years, the main offender in a dangerous
throw has been reported. In future, a second or even third player involved in a
dangerous throw will suffer the same fate.

And not before time. The practice of upending a player in
a tackle and then dropping him on his head or neck simply must be eliminated
from the game. The risk of permanent disability, or even worse, is just too
high. An overdue step in the right
direction.