Why common sense isn’t common in rugby league


That was 2013 yet here the game is, nearly a decade later, grappling with its rules and the interpretation of them, still searching for the “commonsense” that Anderson foreshadowed but could never find.

The latest person promising to introduce sanity to proceedings is NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo.

All summer, he sought the opinions of every stakeholder in the game searching for a streamlined system of player punishment for on-field indiscretions.

The number of charges were chopped in half, the loading system simplified, and carryover points were replaced with first, second and third offences.

It was rushed in on the very first day of the season, but the moves were, tentatively, applauded. Hoorah for commonsense!

Then the season got in the way. Three rounds in and the new system looks like the Homer Mobile.

Parramatta are blowing up about Storm giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona receiving a $1000 fine for his high shot on Makahesi Makatoa.

The rest of the known universe saw the tackle for what it was: a swinging arm.

Anyone watching the match also knew it was the result of endless niggle between the two players, hastened by Makatoa earlier clapping his hands in Big Nelson’s face after he fumbled while playing the ball.

Instead, the match review committee did what it usually does, running through the tackle like a re-enactment of the JFK assassination, before concluding Makatoa was falling, that the point of impact wasn’t the forearm but the inside elbow joint of Asofa-Solomona’s arm.

Former NRL referees’ boss Daniel Anderson.Credit:James Brickwood

Commonsense: swinging arm worthy of a two-match ban at least. Match review committee: grade-one careless high tackle worth a fine.

There will always be different opinions about tackles. Rugby league is messy. No two tackles are the same.

Last Thursday night, Sharks centre Jesse Ramien rushed in and shut down Jake Gosiewski, his left forearm thudding into his opponent’s head.

In commentary for Nine, Phil Gould argued it wasn’t that bad and couldn’t be helped because he was trying to wrap up the ball while Brad Fittler argued, “Yeah, but he hit him in the head” and that Ramien “had an opportunity to go lower”.

Ramien was sin-binned and the following day fined $1000 by the match review committee with a grade-one careless high tackle. (His six-match ban for his sickening swinging arm to Dragons fullback Matt Dufty last year wasn’t considered because all prior indiscretions were wiped when the new system was introduced this year).

“Three rounds in and the new system looks like the Homer Mobile.”

In the same match, Dragons back-rower Jaydn Su’A also got his tackle slightly wrong on Dale Finucane, hit him high, but the match review considered it a grade two, and he won’t be playing this Sunday unless the club fights the charge.

Can you work it out? I can’t.

The game’s administrators are tying themselves in knots right now over concussion and the prospect of legal action. The Bunker intervenes at every opportunity while independent doctors sit alongside them, making calls on a player’s wellbeing from afar.

We were told during Magic Round last year that the game would die in “15 years” if something wasn’t done about high tackles. Fair enough.

But if that’s so, why is the NRL still allowing its match review committee to continually make baffling decisions from one match to the next, one tackle to the next, seemingly undermining its case for a safer game?

Head of football Graham Annesley said in his weekly media debriefing that Asofa-Solomona should have been sin-binned and slapped with a grade two charge. It’s an admirable admission of fault but fans and clubs would rather the situation rectified.

Anger had been replaced by apathy when I spoke to the Eels on Monday morning. I’m told they won’t be seeking answers from head office because they believe it’s a waste of energy.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the world, Daniel Anderson must be chuckling at it all, like one of those crazy scientists in movies who knows the world’s about to end.

Who in rugby league listens to commonsense?

Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.

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