Today rugby league fans are mourning the premature passing of the shoulder charge. The popular, if unpredictable, servant to the game will long be remembered via the hours of highlights packages dedicated to the bone-rattling art. RIP humble Shoulder Charge.
In terms of entertainment value, the NRL has just scrapped their most exciting and explosive element of the game. There’s nothing like a well executed hit to swing momentum, fire up the team, or liven up the crowd. But after a review of the 71 shoulder charges from the season, the Australia Rugby League Commission (ARLC) found that nearly 17% of the savage hits made contact with the head. Last night the ARLC released the following statement.
“The Commission has reviewed a detailed report into the shoulder charge and accepted a management recommendation that the increased size of athletes was creating a situation where the shoulder charge could, if maintained, lead to an unacceptable injury risk."
The ruling has been met with utter disdain from players, coaches, and fans. Funnily enough, the small minority of supporters are mostly represented by members of the medical community... you know, those guys that actually know what the constant concussions are doing to players brains. Like Sydney Roosters and Cricket NSW team doctor, John Orchard.
Touche good doctor
Speaking to Fox Sports, the iconic and universally respected Wayne Bennett, along with the other more considered supporters of the shoulder charge, thought the instant eradication of the tackle was overkill.
“I was consulted and I was in favour of
maintaining it,” the Newcastle Knights coach said. “It’s a point of
difference for us. It can be an exciting tackle and it can excite the fans.
The dangerous throws have been eliminated
from the game because the penalties are so severe that the players don’t use
them. A shoulder charge could’ve been in the same category.
There are lots of shoulder charges in
games that we don’t recognise, where players use their shoulder to protect themselves.
They don’t make any connection with the head.
The one that sticks out when (Chris)
Sandow tried to put a shoulder charge on Greg Inglis. That’s spectacular.”
NSW and Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen suggested that a further reduction of interchanges would bring fatigue back into the equation and reduce the ferocity of the impact. Gallen’s sentiments were back by Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.
“It would see more footballers who are not
just athletes,” he said. “We are too athlete-based. We need to
become more football-based. This would bring the smaller players back into the
game and make fatigue more of a factor.”
If the shoulder charge was a band-aid, the ARLC just ripped it clean off with most players and fans still experiencing that horrifying “What the hell did you do that for?” phase. Making up less than 0.5% of all tackles, there’s a strong argument that the tackle will barely be missed. There’s no rules against trying to put on a big hit. It’s just now, the player is required to rap the arms and stay away from the head.
With no shoulder led avenues for players to direct their frustrations, at least there is still Twitter.
Picture By Getty Images