The Courier-Mail

Shoulder charge trio got off easily

- DARREN LOCKYER

THE NRL judiciary had a chance to make a statement on the shoulder charge last Wednesday night.

By allowing all three players charged – Issac Luke, Jorge Taufua and Aidan Guerra – to walk away without punishment has only compounded the confusion over a tackle that must have black-and-white repercussi­ons.

While many are applauding the not-guilty verdicts, personally I was left a little puzzled. If the NRL is serious about getting rid of the shoulder charge, why were all three guys exonerated?

That’s nothing personal against the players in question, but I felt this was the NRL’s opportunit­y to draw a line in the sand and reshape attitudes towards a tackle that cannot reside in today’s game.

The NRL is now facing a test of credibilit­y on its handling of the shoulder charge. With the finals three weeks away, the NRL must crack down on the shoulder charge, however minor the force may seem.

While every player is entitled to a fair hearing, the judiciary must be mindful of the welfare parameters that convinced the ARL Commission to ban the shoulder charge in the first place.

Of the three players, Luke was luckiest to escape suspension.

Souths will argue Luke was merely bracing himself for contact with Johnathan Thurston.

Luke himself argued that his forearm, not his shoulder, made contact with Thurston.

But if you examine the replay, Luke came charging out of the defensive line to pressure Thurston, who ended up on his backside.

If a defender holds his line and bumps into an attacker, I can accept the bracing argument.

But when a defender moves towards an attacker at speed and fails to wrap the arm, that should ring alarm bells.

I am an advocate for getting rid of the shoulder charge.

But shifting entrenched attitudes in league can be difficult.

We need to change the technical habits of players when they tackle.

The shoulder charge has to go the way of the spear tackle.

If we crack down hard on it, players will develop the muscle-memory that they cannot go in leading with the shoulder.

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