The big news in rugby league today is not last night’s golden point match — the third in one weekend — but some serious charges directed at the Melbourne Storm over the “grapple” tackle, and an even more dangerous version nicknamed “the crusher”.
The grapple tackle, broadly defined as the tackled player being grabbed around the neck while being dragged to the ground, has been around as long as the game itself. But television scrutiny has highlighted it and the injury it can cause.
In Sunday’s spiteful Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos game there were at least five grapple tackles, mainly by Storm players. That produced the usual post-match criticism from the Broncos coach, Wayne Bennett. But it is the growing incidence of “the crusher” that is causing the NRL the most angst.
Late yesterday the NRL issued an urgent edict to the Judiciary to establish guidelines to outlaw “a new tackle that places severe downward pressure on the neck of the ball carrier”.
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Today the father of Broncos player, Greg Eastwood, wrote to the Brisbane Courier Mail threatening to sue any player who uses the grapple tackle/crusher on his son and causes him permanent injury. He claimed to have “many” photos of Storm players deliberately using the grapple tackle, and ended his letter with a challenge to NRL CEO, David Gallop, “to do his job as a job before a citizen such as me does it for him”.
The Broncos complaint about the grapple tackle has been weakened by their player Corey Parker’s admission that everyone, including the Broncos, does it as well.
Over the weekend I saw a couple of tackles that would fall within the definition of “the crusher” in which the tackled players neck was pushed forward in a dangerous manner. And when they are replayed in slow motion they look genuinely dangerous.
While the grapple tackle is dangerous, the crusher is significantly worse, and must be outlawed. And ploy that put severe pressure on a player’s neck cannot be tolerated.
The headlines about the grapple tackle, and the crusher, unfortunately detract attention from another extraordinary round of the NRL premiership.
Three of the eight games were tied at full time, and had to be decided by the “golden point” extra time. The extraordinary run by the Sydney Roosters since former star, Brad Fittler, took over as coach continued, and now the Roosters have gone from being wooden spoon contenders to an outside chance to make the finals.